Last month a member of our congregation, John Didion, had a sudden and massive heart attack. For two days the doctors and nurses in the hospital gave it their best effort, but there was nothing they could do. John’s time on this earth came to an end.
John and his wife had been part of our congregation for only a couple of years, but he was a guy I felt I “clicked with” and liked right away. He had a sharp mind, a fun sense of humor and a big heart. I looked forward to a growing friendship.
As I stood by John’s bedside as his earthly life was coming to a close, I was encouraged by the thought that my friendship with John wasn’t coming to an end. For the next few years I’ll miss John. I’ll miss not watching the Super Bowl with him. I’ll miss not finding out how he was planning to get back at me for finding his old football card and putting it on display. When Oregon beats Oregon State I’ll miss not being able to see him shake his head. And if the day happens to come when the Beavers beat the Ducks, I’ll even miss not having John around to give me a bad time.
Because John and I share a faith in the crucified and risen Jesus I have a confident hope that we will resume our friendship one day soon. Our friendship then will be even closer.
John made some great contributions to our Bible study group and our adult Sunday school class. He was a thinker. He gave serious thought to what the Bible passage we were studying said and considered what it meant and what were the implications and applications we ought to make.
John wasn’t afraid to ask questions. They were good questions. They were the kind of questions others wanted to ask, but were maybe hesitant to ask or they didn’t know for sure how to word the question. John didn’t seem to worry much about whether the answer might seem obvious or the question might sound silly. He wanted to learn more about God’s Word so he asked questions. I enjoyed the questions. Often they brought up good points that I hadn’t thought about.
In the past John had been in some congregations where he didn’t feel a freedom to ask questions. It sounds like some pastors and teachers were maybe intimidated by John and his questions. They missed out. Their loss was our gain. It’s too bad when teachers just want to present but they’re not open to being asked questions that may challenge them. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” John sharpened me and others. He also encouraged me a lot with more praise for my teaching, preaching and pastoring than I deserved.
I give thanks for my friend, and even more so, I give thanks for the hope Jesus gives. Because of Christ, this life isn’t all there is. We can look forward to joy and friendship for all eternity.