Gene and I met Rodney a few years ago when he came to minister to our church all the way from Atlanta. God has blessed him with the gift of teaching others about finances and he sat with many in our congregation one on one and offered godly wisdom. During our time with him he did something that forever changed my husbands walk with God.
At the time Gene told him that he was struggling with reading God's Word on a daily basis. Rodney encouraged him to read the chapter in Proverbs to what day it is...today's the 30th, so he'd read Proverbs 30 and to also read a chapter or more out of the book of Psalm each day. Then Rodney prayed over us. Gene took his advice and can't get enough of God's Word still today. We've kept in touch throughout the last few years and this winter we received a newsletter from him announcing the new ministry targeting marriages called Liberty in Life Ministries that he and his wife were launching.
When I called Rodney yesterday to tell him of my sorrow over the loss of his son I just said through tears, "Rodney, I don't know what to say." He then began to talk of his Jonathan. They knew from the beginning how special their son was. For 8 years they tried to have a baby and had no success until God gave them Jonathan. Finally pregnant, he would be their only son of 3 children. Jonathan David....Beloved Warrior.
Jonathan began to have flu-like symptoms this summer and went to the hospital on Sunday, July 13th. On Saturday the 19th he left to go home to his Heavenly Father. They ran test after test and have no idea what claimed his life. Rodney said, "Lelia, there were over a 1,000 people we knew of praying for him. Vicki and I were standing over him on Saturday praying for God to heal him when a single tear slipped out of his eye. Immediately we stopped praying for healing and instead began to encourage him to go to Jesus. I felt like he was saying Dad, I want to go where you have raised me to go. As painful as it was, Vicki and I began to give him permission to go home and told him we loved him and we'd see him again in Heaven. I told him how proud I was that he was my son."
Last Thursday was his funeral and Rodney spoke at it rejoicing as he watched lost souls make the decision to say YES to GOD touched by his only son's life. Just the way Jonathan would've liked it, his Dad told me.
He shared how bold his son was at THIRTEEN years old. Last Sunday a neighbor told Rodney that when Jonathan was over playing with his son a few weeks ago he respectfully told his friends' dad that he shouldn't have the magazines lying around for the boys to see. Magazines with practically naked woman on the cover this young man chose to look away and ask them to be removed. The father shared with Rodney how it convicted him and he got rid of the magazines. Bold.
He said he was the type of kid that always shared Jesus and had led many kids to Christ. The kids would start going to church with them and soon the parents would follow. Whole families saved because one kid chose to talk about Jesus in between video games. Bold.
I shared with Rodney how a year ago we found out that Alyssa was pregnant and although our boat was rocked, our faith was left unshaken. It's stronger today as we know Who we serve and we trust in Him. I shared this to say that although this has rocked their world and in no way do our trials compare, that I see their already strong faith in Jesus only getting stronger.
At the end of our conversation he thanked me over and over for calling. He said he always felt a 'special connection' to us. I told him we did to him also and why we did. Rodney was the one who was bold with Gene. The one who gave him godly instruction and who never stopped praying for him, for us. He sent e-mails and called and every time Gene and him talked my husband felt encouraged.
Their son was so close in age to our son. Same 14 shoe size. Both athletes. Both love playing PS2. One in heaven, one heaven bound. This week Jonathan should be at football camp, but instead he's conversing with Moses and Abraham.
I called to reach out to Rodney and his family, but before hanging up the phone he began to encourage Gene and I with Alyssa. Tears were flowing as I listened to this pastor, this man of God, this hurting parent choosing to reach out and minister to us. Thinking of others before himself. Jesus spoke so loud through him. I asked Rodney, "Do you even hear yourself? You're being Jesus to me right now in the middle of your own pain. It's so amazing!"
It's not hard to see where Jonathan learned how to be bold. How to put Jesus first no matter what circumstance is staring him in the face. It took the death of a 13 year old boy I won't meet until eternity to get me to see what I really desire. At 37 years old I know I don't have an ounce of this child's boldness and I have yet to live a life worth the King wanting me by His side in Heaven now instead of later. Just floors me that this kid "got it" and lived a life of complete focus. A life lived on purpose. He is someone I will be searching out to talk to when I get there.
My heart felt so weighed down this morning as I sat in my chair to meet with God. I prayed that God would show me something in my time alone with Him. I cried and prayed for the Keyes' family. I then opened my book and my Bible and couldn't believe what God had for me to read. I shut my book with joy in my heart for Rodney and his wife at what He's about to do in their lives all because of their unwavering faithfulness.
Beth Moore just hit the nail right on its head with this in my study:
No perfume is more costly and more aromatic to God than the faithfulness of believers who are suffering.
Then she asked this question:
Do you know a believer in Christ whose faithfulness astounds you in the midst of his/her suffering? If so, describe him or her.
You know I wrote about our dear friend Rodney.
Who but God knew that while Rodney and Vicki were obediently launching His new ministry that their testimony would be changed before the end of July. They would have a different light shed on the very ministry that encourages couples to lean on Jesus no matter what trials come their way. Who but God knew they'd be introduced to a side of Him no believing parent hopes to embrace since the only way to it is through the loss of a child.
They are now in a place that the fall to their knees is harder but the rise up is filled with a deeper passion for Him. God knew and trusted their hearts knowing that no pain could sear their hearts deep enough to sever the relationship He already had with them. That day Jonathan took his last breath and went to Heaven was the day Rodney and Vicki would also be ushered into a new place. A place full of peace and joy that washes over the pain. A place full of great loss, yet a faithfulness that remains strong but more motivated to share Jesus with others.
I want this. I WANT this in my life.
A life filled with overflowing faith and love for my Savior.
A life that is bold for Him.
A life that introduces others to the King.
A life that smells good when it fills the nostrils of the Prince of Peace.
Lord, I love You and I desperately need You. Until today I can honestly say that I have never desired You like I do this minute.
Invade, intrude and take me to new heights.
Thank you for the life Jonathan lived for You and the example his young heart left for us.
Let's just do this thing. Let's serve Him, love Him, smell good to Him and say YES.
Please continue to pray for the Keyes' family. The Keyes now have much in common with the Steven Curtis Chapman family. A summer of great loss that will bring much Kingdom gain. All because of the faithfulness of these servants of God.