This past week my heart has been very, very heavy. A close friend in the USA was keeping me up to date as a tragedy was unfolding in the life of a family I hold very dear. This weekend my friend Luke Johnson went to be with Jesus. My heart is broken with this loss and broken for his mother Jane and sister Michele who are dear friends of mine. You can read a little about Luke’s passing from his CaringBridge site here.
Luke grew up as part of our youth ministry in Raleigh, and his mother helped lead youth while his sister was also in youth and grew to be a close friend mine. Jane and Michele are just pure heart and they have shared many precious moments with us in our life. As long as I knew Luke, he struggled with substance abuse and rebellion, but always was an incredibly special person. He lived life with joy and LOTS of laughter. There are a million stories that can be told about Luke and how he loved to make people laugh. When I think of him today it is him laughing. Many, many people loved Luke and tried to walk the difficult journey of addiction alongside him guiding him to Jesus and freedom. Ultimately Luke did not win his battle with addiction and his untimely death was a shock to all who knew him. The world seems a little less bright without Luke.
However, as Casey and I were reflecting on the tragedy over the weekend, he asked me if I actually knew Luke personally that well or just knew him as another youth group kid. We had hundreds of kids in and out of our ministry during our time in Raleigh, and while they were all amazing you obviously don’t grow a close bond with each of them. I pondered the question, and while I had been on a couple youth trips with Luke I actually only remember one time sitting and talking to him alone about his true heart or feelings. I knew him mostly in groups, always filled with laughter, always in the midst of many others. So why did this tragedy hit me so deeply?
I suddenly realized that I have a deep and guttural love for Luke because I always saw him through the eyes of his mother and sister. I was very close over the years with Jane and Michele and we would talk and pray through the harrowing episodes that Luke would put upon himself and others. It was sometimes a painful journeys with Luke, and as I spent so much time with his mom and sister it was always a part of our relationship. I honestly never realized that I personally hadn’t spent that much time with this incredible person. I knew him through HER EYES.
How powerful and profound. That through the love of a mother and sister I could actually feel like I knew the depths of a person and loved them at their core. I knew the REAL Luke because of these woman and I prayed for the REAL Luke because of their love. They loved him so beautifully that it made me fall in love with him.
Loving an addict is difficult and they often struggled with how to love and support him in the ‘right’ or healthy way. Honestly none of us can every love perfectly; only God does that. But Jane and Michele loved sacrificially, wholly, passionately and with their entire lives. They could NOT have loved him better.
Today I sit in Africa wishing I could spend the day in Raleigh to be at my church and hug these special woman. I want to cry with them, hold the hands of my friends, and grieve together for our worst nightmare that became real. And I want to see the Holy Spirit fill that room with HIS LOVE and change lives. I know it will happen. God will be alive today and He will be glorified.
But I am here, with my thoughts and grief alone. I cannot help but look at my own sweet son, now almost two and also with an older sister and mother who love him fiercely. The steps ahead for my son won’t always be easy and we won’t always get it right, but I pray we will love Keller with even a fraction of the love that Jane and Michele gave Luke.
The family has said that Luke is now FREE. He is now with Jesus. There is no longer pain, addiction, loneliness, confusion, or darkness. There is only light and only Him. And I know there is a LOT more laughter and smiles in heaven with Luke there.
I am thankful to have known Luke Johnson, through her eyes.