Friday, September 20, 2002

(Note: If you are not in the mood for serious... move along. Read yesterday's blog. Watch The Weather Channel. Find a Sienfield rerun. But don't read this blog. Fair warning.)

His name was Zac and I didn't meet him until he was dead. That is way too late if you are a youth pastor. I know his sister. She went to Centrifuge with us last summer. i know his aunt, his uncle, and his cousins. They are all still alive and doing quite well, thank you. They are members of my church. But somehow it slipped past my attention that Zac even existed. He was not quiet. he did not keep to himself. We just failed to cross paths. Last year he got into trouble at school. He had a substance that he was not suppose to have. So when they found it they threw him out of school. His parents, in a rage of wisdom, enrolled him into a very small Christian high school. I am sure they were very angry at him for getting in trouble. Most likely they wanted to kill him themselves! And I really doubt that Zac wanted to go to this new school. All of his friends were back at Civic Memorial But he stepped up to the plate and served his sentence. And something extremely wonderful happened to Zac at this new school. Zac met Jesus. He was ambushed by the Son of God when he least expected it. Evidently Zac knew a deal when he saw it because he jumped at the chance to pray and ask Jesus into his heart. This year Zac continued on at that small, Christian high school. By all indications he was quite happy there. He retained his friends from Civic Memorial High School. Life was good for Zac.

And then came Tuesday. It was raining in the afternoon. Zac was at home but he told his mom that he had to go out for a minute but he would be right back. His mom did what most mom's would do... she said, "ok." Five minutes later Zac's mom got the word. Zac was dead. His car evidently hydro-planed. He hit a utility pole. The pole snapped. It landed on his car. It landed on Zac. A 16 year old life ended immediately.

Zac's death makes no sense. And to make matters worse, he is the third teenager to die in our community in the last three months. The police are in shock. The hospital emergency room workers and talking about it. The story has transcended our local Alton Telegraph newspaper and has been told by the more prestigious St. Louis Post Dispatch. It has been called "a horrible coincidence," a "shocking turn of evvents," and even "fathomless." But strong adjectives don't breath life back into a young mans dead body.

How odd that the very thing that seemed so bad... Zac being tossed out of public school... would wind up being the singular thing that was responsible for bringing him to Jesus. I told that to his parents today standing over his casket. I reminded them that, because they loved him enough to discipline him, he was doing much better in every area... except for his driving. I pointed out that what looked like evil turned out to be good. We talked of eternity and of Zac enjoying life far more now than he did a mere 3 days ago. They smiled through their grief and said that they had not thought of that. There is pain in the Crews family tonight. I did not know Zac and yet I share that pain. I felt it as I entered the viewing room with the family. I felt it as I clasped his father by the shoulders and felt this big blue collar worker tremble. I felt it as I hugged his little sister and brother and prayed with them. I felt it as grandma thanked me for coming and as she told me to pray for her family because not all of them know Jesus. And pray I did. I prayed the prayer of a lifeime.. And I quoted scripture about Jesus defeating death. I held them as they leaned over the casket and stroked Zac's hair and touched his cheek.

So there you go. That's what it is like to be a pastor. We live for the moment of crises. That is when we get to do our job and people actually listen. But man, a 16 year old boy that should be doing math homework tonight is laying in a casket in a funeral home instead. What do you do with that? And you know what? Zac is the boy that dated my sons girlfriend right before he started dating her. And you know what else? Five weeks ago my son was stopped for speeding on the same road ... at the same place... where Zac died two days ago. What do you do with that?

You pray. You sneak into his room late at night after he has finally fallen asleep on this stressful evening and you pray. You thank God for protecting him. And you ask Him to keep on protecting him because he has a lifetime of driving ahead of him... and you want it to be a long lifetime. And you stay up really late blogging because you can't get the picture of Zac, all dressed up and laid out in his coffin, out of your head. You feel his mothers tears drip onto your hand again as you remember leaning over the casket with her and whispering to her that her son is not here... that this is a tent that has been taken down... and that he now lives in a new home. One not made with human hands. And you pray for the many teenagers that are sitting up right now... wondering about death... and about God. They are unable to sleep because they have a funeral to go to tomorrow and teenagers are not suppose to go to funerals. They re suppose to laugh and eat and go to parties. And it occurs to you that, though life is not fair, and though it has no discernable rhyme nor reason, it is worth it. But only because of one name. Jesus.