A Lament for Friends

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Yesterday we learned that our good friends and partners in ministry Ron Balzer, along with his wife Tammy and 4 year old granddaughter Hayleigh, were killed in an auto accident as they were on their way to enjoy a family vacation.  The Balzers leave behind four children and a wider circle of beloved family members as well as many, many brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For the past several years it has been a privilege for Lavone and me to become acquainted with Ron and Tammy.  Although we did not work and share directly with them on a regular basis, still we had grown to love and appreciate them as fellow overseers in our church.  Here is a lament for our friends and colleagues, adopted

In the abstract I hardly ever ask those why-questions. I often rather easily draw fine distinctions: when bad things happen to good people my world can be rocked but not my world-view.  But when it’s someone you know well, it’s different.  When it’s someone you know, it feels right to ask, “Why?” And besides, you can’t help yourself.

Ron and Tammy, servants extraordinaire–gifted, fruitful, committed, passionate about Christ-following, deeply concerned about the churches, pastors and people under their oversight and care.  Larger than life, fun-loving and joyful, whose presence brightened the atmosphere of the room.  Who listened to conversation but routinely raised the practical questions of what this has to do with the mission where we live and work? Though joyful and bigger-than-life, none the less authentic, unpretentious, insistent on being real in the presence of grace and all God’s other gifts—all of this and so much more a blessing now, with promise for the future.  But now, Lord, why?

Ron and Tammy–devoted to one another, loving parents and grandparents, so much promise for the future but now cut short, cut off.  And what of this beautiful little granddaughter?  Why?

Servants of the Lord, persons who said “yes” to God’s call, and adjusted life to the demands of that call.  Pastoring churches, pastoring pastors, stewarding the part of the mission assigned to his region of the country, all the while enjoying and enduring the common joys and pains of being family, raising children, welcoming grandchildren, making ends meet.  Saying “yes” to the Lord’s call, and a lot of other good “yeses” as well.  Living and serving under the “Yes” Jesus is and speaks into the world until in the midst of such living suddenly there was the “No” of an accident and the end of precious lives.  Why?

So, Lord, I am asking, “Why?”  Just as I know many are asking.  I know how to answer in the abstract.  But in the middle of this painful tragedy, no answer really answers.  So, why?

I’m asking why because your people have a long history with this question: “Why, Lord?”  I’m asking because it raises the question of meaning.  The very asking of the question bears witness to meaning–that somehow, some way, purpose penetrates everything.  I don’t mean that you did this for a purpose (as some might say).  I do mean that your purposes remain and will prevail and that even this outrageous accident will somehow count.  I don’t know how, so I’m asking the question, but still I believe.

I’m asking “why?” not so much in anger–though I am angry–but in pain.  And, in hope that the pain will find relief eventually, and until then will serve some other good purposes.

I’m asking “why?” but not really because I want an answer–what information or explanation could take away the pain?  What answer could change what has happened?  I’m asking “why?” because I want these kinds of things to stop.  I want a day to come when no one will ask this question again!  Why, Lord?

Asking this why-question now, in view of what happened to our friends, which was so shocking, so unthinkable, brings a reality check nearly as jolting as the accident that took their lives.  Obedience to Christ’s call is as serious as it gets.  At some point in time it could cost you your life.  That doesn’t scare me, it sobers me.  I don’t want to squander opportunities or fritter away time–both of which could be in shorter supply than I know.  I want to redeem the time.  I want to love well.  I want to cherish the family and the FAMILY.  I want “to go” in the full strength of faith working itself out in love toward God and others.  If my family and friends ever have to grieve my untimely loss I would want the last images I leave them to reflect the life of the age to come, when no one will be asking the question we are asking–Why, Lord?

So, Lord, a lot of us are asking it.  “Why?’

Hear our question.  Please hear us.  And, then, please become the answer we need.  And, then Lord, please say, “No more!”

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