He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16, verse 15.
The Mexican proverb is right: if you want to hear God laugh tell Him your plans. I wanted to stay away from this blog for a month, but a few hours after I posted that, I learned of something that made for a better pause.
A friend of mine died this morning. A few of you knew Troy Roseberry, most liked him, and some knew him well while others not so much. Troy was my first NCOIC when I went to sea 30 years ago; that’s ‘NCO in Charge’ for those of you not familiar with the military. He was the crew chief on my first watch crew. He was the man who trained me how to use the reconnaissance positions that we each worked at the very height of the big bad Cold War. He was a mentor and a friend. Troy was only a staff sergeant when I met him (I was a lowly airman first class; E-3), and I didn’t know him for more than a year or so before he PCS’d (permanent change of station) to a new duty assignment. That was around 1988 or so, and I didn’t hear from Troy for another twenty-two years until we reconnected over Facebook around 2010.
That was about the time when my sins came home to roost. So as to stop talking about me, let me jump to the punchline:
Troy helped save my life.
He did so by sharing Jesus with me on a day when I seriously thought about killing myself. I couldn’t take the hurt I had caused because I had strayed. My wife had left me and I was crushed, without my guiding star. My kids detested me. The woman with whom I had cheated had shown she was neither angelic nor sweet, just another tortured sinner who abandoned the man she’d promised to cherish. Many of my friends wanted nothing to do with me, not even many of the leaders of my church. I felt so low that I wanted to die, to make all the hurt stop. It was more than I could bear until I read an online message from Troy.
He reached out and reminded me that Jesus was still there with me, crying with me, aching to help me. He said “grab your arms around yourself and squeeze tight. That’s what it feels like when Jesus is holding on to you like He is right now.” He shared how He had come to follow the Lord after he had absorbed his own body-blows in life, and how his sweet wife, Ruby, had been a lighthouse in the storms for him. How they had built a life of faith together despite troubles, changes, and cancer.
It gave me hope when I thought hope wasn’t possible for me. It gave me strength to get through those days. It helped me to honestly face what I’d done, to turn from it and repent, to begin to make amends the best I could. Over the next few weeks, we talked a lot more, and he was both friendly and honest, more like a big brother than a former comrade in arms. My friend didn’t have to reach out and share like he did, but he did it anyway because that’s the kind of man he was. Because that was the kind of faith that lived inside his heart now that he’d come to know and love Jesus.
Today, Troy’s in heaven.
I’ve grown accustomed to sharing politics and proverbial’s with him, and we’ll have to put those on hold for now. Where Troy is, such silly things no longer matter. Those of us left behind in this hard world know what it means to have to struggle, but Troy has now blissfully forgotten all that. When I heard the news I broke down crying because it hurts to know someone you care for has died. Yeah, I know that he’s at peace, and the cancer that killed him never really defeated him, and that he’s a whole man again who I’ll see in a few short years when I, too, pass from this world. But it still hurts. I haven’t seen the man in most of those thirty years; his family is the group who is hurting today, so please pray for them earnestly as they adjust, remember, and celebrate while grieving.
But circle back, then, to that thing Troy said to me: grab your arms around yourself right now and give yourself a hug. That’s Jesus hugging you tightly while you go through every day here, especially on the tough ones. Jesus comforted Troy in his final days here. Jesus gave him courage to live well and die strong. Jesus welcomed Troy home a few hours ago. Jesus waits to do the same for you and for me. In a time when I had let Satan cloud my vision, Troy cut through the fog for me and reminded me that eternity matters most. Today he very much knows why.
I’m sure my friend had other plans for life, and I’m betting God had a belly laugh about them. The crazy wonderful thing is that, today, my good friend and mentor is laughing along with that same God Almighty. I’m thankful for that and look forward to the day when I can laugh right along with them.
Fair winds and following seas, my friend. Thank you. I thank God for you.
Lord Jesus, thank You for my friend, Troy. Thank You for welcoming him home. Guide, preserve, and strengthen his wife and family, and keep their eyes focused on You.