Last Words

What would you say if you knew you were speaking to someone for the very last time?

On Valentines Day, I had the last conversation I will ever have with a dear student of mine. Soon after she left my house, she was killed instantly, leaving her family and friends completely devastated.

After the shock subsides and the mourning begins, there are typically two avenues we can take with our grief. Sometimes, the blow is so bad that recovery never truly comes; we become bitter and cold, using cynicism, as a shield that we hope will deflect any future pain that might befall us. Others, who are able to heal, search for the lessons they can take away from the tragedy, making it their aim to live and act in such a way that will have a positive impact on the world around them, as they’re suddenly more aware of the brevity of life. 

Though I’ve been wrestling with God for the past week and a half, over questions that I know cannot be answered this side of Heaven, I’m aware of the conscious choice one must make when faced with the loss of a loved one.

Looking forward, I recognize what I must do to honor God, and Katie’s memory. It’s so much more than being a “better person.” I’ve always made it my aim to be positive with, not only my students, but everyone in my life. But again, it’s so much more than being positive, because I know I was all of those things with Katie, as I am with all of my students. I encourage them in their abilities and gifts, aspiring to instill confidence in, not only what they can do, but who they are.

But that is simply not good enough anymore.

People need more than self-confidence; they need God-confidence.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is so worried about tolerance & political correctness that we end up tip-toeing around what we actually want to say for fear that we might “offend” someone with our beliefs. And I must admit, there have been many times that I have watered down what I wanted to say for fear of how I might come cross.

Frankly, now I don’t care.

Everyone should know they are dearly loved. Everyone should know that they are not an accident, but rather a child of God.  Everyone should know they are valuable, not because of what they look like, what they’ve accomplished, or what they are capable of, but because God gave them value when He thought them into existence.

This idea doesn’t just mean we should smile at strangers and hold open doors for the elderly, though those things are all fine and good.  Since a lot of us “live our lives” through the window of technology, it is now more important than ever that these principles translate to the way we behave on social media.

I am sick and tired of all of the hate and divisiveness I see on a day-to-day basis. So often I just want to shut it all down and move out in the middle of nowhere with no Internet or television. But, that is increasingly becoming less and less likely of an option, especially for the field of work I have chosen to be in. So since we can’t avoid it, we need to get a whole lot more serious about the way in which we deal with it.

Friends, stop getting into petty arguments online.

Stop posting hurtful garbage simply for the sake of vilifying those who believe differently than you do.

And Christians specifically, stop tearing down other Christians that appear to be doing or saying something that is less than perfect when you know full-well that you’re not perfect, and the only reason you are considered “right” in the eyes of God is because of the One who made you righteous through His death. Because, God has also made that person righteous through His free gift of salvation, and you couldn’t possibly ever be good enough to earn God’s favor. So, stop trolling people who you believe aren’t good enough to earn yours.

I know I’m guilty of these things. We’re all guilty of these things. And I know I’m not going to do what I’ve set out to do perfectly. There are going to be moments where someone cuts me off in traffic and I forget. There are going to be times when I’m tired and lean in to selfish, sinful behavior rather than being loving.  But my hope and prayer is that I will continue to carry this sense of urgency into my future interactions with people. After all, it’s what Katie would have done. She would have given a stranger a hug, even when it felt socially unacceptable or awkward. She would have smiled, even in the face of criticism. Katie was someone who, instead of whining or complaining, sang and twirled around in the face of the worst kind of tribulation one could ever face; she was truly an inspiration to every life she touched. Katie loved well, and I believe the only way I can truly honor her life is by loving well in return.

It is imperative that people know they are loved. They need to know they’re loved, not just by you, but by the God who created them. It is imperative that people know that God has a plan for their life, that He wants a relationship with them, and that He sent His son Jesus to die for them, so that when they die, they can spend the rest of eternity in Heaven, where there is no mourning, or crying, or pain. It is crucial that those we come into contact with know these things, because we truly never know which words we say to someone will be the last.