In the last week, our church lost a good friend. Josh Walters, our student pastor, stepped away from ministry for a while to fight for his family. It was one of the most remarkable decisions I’ve ever personally witnessed. He walked through it with so much wisdom and strength, when everything in me would have been so frail and broken.
Many of you don’t know that Josh was a friend of mine before I came to our church. Truth be told, he is why I came to our church. Josh and I met after months of prodding by my friend Ed, who also goes to our church. Ed worked with my wife and knew I was Student Pastor. Both Josh and I didn’t want to call each other or get together. I remember Josh saying “I thought it would be just a couple guys sitting around talking about Sunday School curriculum.” That first day was crazy how we really connected on a deep level. I would have asked him out if he were girl and I were single.
Over the last three years I have simply cherished my friendship with him. Not only do we see the same world, but we also see the same Jesus, which makes our relationship that much more easier. Josh honestly makes me a better person and minister. There is no other way to put it, really. He is one of the handful of GREAT friends I have, and I’m thankful every time I spend time with him.
I know I’m not losing his friendship, as a matter of fact it might just be a bit easier to be friends now. But, I’m losing seeing him everyday. I’m losing leading him in worship and seeing him surrender his voice, his body, and his heart to Jesus. I’m losing sitting next to him in staff meetings and instant messaging funny things back and forth on our laptops. I’m going to miss a lot about Josh.
I have one consolation, though. All of those things that I’m going to miss, I’m going to miss them for a reason … because I had the opportunity to experience them. I’ve gotten to have a great friend who totally loved me and opened himself to becoming my friend.
At the end of the Shawshank Redemption, the main character Andy escapes from a prison he didn’t belong inside. His friend, Red, is reflecting upon the loss of his friend Andy when he says “I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”
I love Josh and will miss my friend greatly. So fight on Josh; fight on.