Last week, one of our most successful Life Launch mentees passed away due to complications from an undiagnosed brain tumor. Her name was Tray and she was 20 years old. Tray was a chef, a model, and an all around amazing, outgoing, sweet person to everyone. Her Life Launch mentor, Pam, taught her how to drive, how to purchase her first car, navigate poor relationships, and so many more situations. Through Pam and her dedication, patience, and kindness, Tray really blossomed over the past 4 years.
Tray went through so many ups and downs. I remember I called her one day to check in and it happened to be her birthday. I asked how she was doing and what was new and she said that she was living in her car because her boyfriend kicked her out of the apartment.
I told her that she wasn’t going to sleep in her car on her birthday, she could stay with Anna and me. So, she came over to the house and we cooked her favorite meal, chicken alfredo, and we celebrated her 19th birthday together! I sent pictures of our new baby to her about 2 weeks ago. That was the last time I talked to her.
The job that we do at Stand in the Gap is heartbreaking sometimes. Participating in Jesus’ ministry to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the suffering and tragedy found in this broken world.
The job we do at Stand in the Gap is heartbreaking sometimes.
But Christianity also calls us into something that no other religion does. It calls us to give our hearts fully to our neighbors. It calls us to lavish love upon others without reservation.
It’s natural to try to protect yourself, to be compassionate without giving your whole heart to other people. Our culture encourages us to keep some emotional distance from our “neighbors” because they will eventually die, or hurt us, and emotional distance will protect us from the pain.
Our strength, our joy, our peace in the midst of heartbreak is not found within our own hearts but rather in the sacred heart of Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus destroys this by proclaiming that our strength, our joy, our peace in the midst of heartbreak is not found within our own hearts but rather in the sacred heart of Christ. If we are united to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have everything that we need. If we are fully secure in our union with Christ (emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically) we are free to give our full love to others, to lavish upon our neighbor all the love that we can muster, without reservation, knowing that when they die, or hurt us, we are secure in Christ. We are free to love.
Christianity frees a person to love without reservation or fear.
I say all of this because I knew Tray for 4 years and she was one of my favorites. Her potential was beyond measure. Yet, she died. I cried and felt sick. But I would not trade a moment with her to not feel the pain of her unpredictable death.
Jesus hates death. We clearly see that in the story of Lazarus, where it says “Jesus wept.” The words used to describe Jesus’ emotional state when he is confronted with the death of his dear friend are “violent hatred,” a “stomping of the feet, or snorting like an angry animal.”
My hope is that Jesus hates death even more than me, and that he will have the final say.
TJ Warren, Life Launch Program Director and Stand in the Gap Director of Programs