Two years ago I made it known publicly that I would NEVER do two things: 1) I would never visit NYC or 2) raise support. So how did I end up raising support to serve as a Collegiate Missionary in NYC? The quick answer would be that one of my best friends, Davin Henrickson paved the way for me. Davin was the first person that I met at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. Soon, we became friends and then roommates. Davin and I consistently challenged each other to grow closer to Christ.
Davin was a renaissance man of sorts. I mean – the guy could do anything that he put his mind to. For instance, at my 30th birthday party, we forgot the spatula. By "we," I really mean "I." Regardless, here we are at the park: raw hamburger meat, a grill, and people, but NO spatula. I paced around for about ten minutes and then returned to find Davin holding a spatula. But this was not an ordinary kitchen utensil. No, Davin had built it out of a few twigs and a red bull can; that was Davin! Also, I remember one evening, he and I were talking through a struggle that I was going through and "blessed be your name" by Matt Redman came on the radio. As these words played:
"Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering; Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name . . ."
He stopped and looked at me and said "this is what it’s about." He understood that suffering pushes us to depend more and more on the Gospel and he challenged me with those lyrics. That was my friend, “MacGuyver the Theologian.”
Following our graduation from Seminary, we all took different directions, but that didn't keep us from keeping up with each other. While I was serving as a College minister in West Virginia in 2011, he came up for my ordination. This was an emotional time, because not only had I just been ordained to Christian ministry, but Davin told me that he was finally going to Idaho to serve as a minister. He was finally pursuing his dream and his calling!
A week later, however, Davin called me and told me that he felt a mass in his abdomen during his trip and that he was going to the doctor to have it checked out. The doctor confirmed that it was beta cell lymphoma. The chemotherapy regimen was launched immediately. I just knew that God had led Davin into this season of life, so that God could be glorified through his healing. But the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months without any marked improvement in his condition.
The treatments began to take their toll on Davin's body, as he continued to try new treatments at various hospitals. Our conversations began to change. No longer were they light and jovial. Now, we talked about "dying well." I'll never forget one day as we were headed to lunch, Davin looked at me with a face of solemn bewilderment and simply stated, "If God decides to heal me for his glory . . . I understand that, but what if His plan is for me to die. I don't understand." I tried to respond with a deep theological answer that would satisfy his question. But I struggled to find the words. All I could do was to point to the Cross.
During this time, I found that my position at the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists was being phased out across the board. So I was traveling, praying, and looking for a new position where I could serve in ministry. On April 24th, I was on my way back from meeting with a friend who was encouraging me to look into starting a church, when I read this email from Davin's wife, Lauren:
“We received the results of Davin's CT scan yesterday, and the cancer has spread throughout his abdomen. Any future treatments (chemo, radiation, etc.) are more likely to cause discomfort than to help, so now our treatment focus is on pain management. We are meeting with some staff from Hosparus (http://www.hosparus.org) tonight, to help Davin decide if he wants to try to remain at home for this time of waiting or if the hospital would be better. The doc said he isn't in the business of guessing, so we don't really have a guess as to how soon God will take Davin to be with Him. For now, we wait. It is bittersweet, but we can rejoice that Davin will be free from suffering soon. Praise God for the perfect healing to come! ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ -Philippians 1:21”
I was speechless. Paralyzed by grief, I sat there trying to gather my thoughts. Trying to think of the next step, while simultaneously being rendered immobile. I tried to pull myself together enough to drive home so that I could make plans to visit Davin in Louisville.
The night before I went to visit Davin for the last time, I preached Philippians 4:13. "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength" was no longer a pithy saying from a Christian T-shirt. It was a promise that I needed. I knew that I needed to challenge one of my best friends to die well and I didn't want to. I didn't want to face the fact that my friend was no longer going to be here. Actually, I wanted to turn my car around and pretend that this wasn't happening. But God gave me the courage to walk into the house where I sat with Davin. I grabbed a Bible and began reading Philippians 3:8-11: "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." I reminded him that the Gospel not only saves us but also motivates us to live in such a way that we desire to know Him in an intimate way through our sufferings. Looking into his eyes, I told him, "Davin, I don't know what's coming around the corner, but I do know that this is when you seek to glorify God like you have never done before." He agreed.
I stayed with my friend for the next 5 days. During this time, I wrestled with God. I realized that I wanted to be in control of my life, but I wasn't. I discovered that I was afraid to die. I could now see clearly how easy it has been for me to coast spiritually rather than learning to truly walk by faith. Davin was about to die, without ever fulfilling his dream to do ministry. How would I respond to that?! I realized that I have an expiration date and that I need to do what God has called me to do. So, I purposed to trust God even if the next step would be an uncomfortable one.
Despite my fears, God has led me to the NYC and called me to raise support. He called me to a renewed life of faith.
Ultimately, all of us have been called to cling to the Gospel and to live our lives in light of that truth. We have been called to live by Faith, even if it is uncomfortable. That is what Davin did.
Three days before Davin passed, his family and friends sat in the living room and sang together. Though Davin could barely speak, he sang these words from Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons:"
And on that day when my strength is failing The end draws near and my time has come Still my soul will sing Your praise unending Ten thousand years and then forevermore
As I saw my friend in his last moments, I was reminded just how short life is. Each one of us has an expiration date. We are called to live by faith. What will we do with the life that God has given us?