In Memory of
Jacob Carlyle Davis
August 20, 1986 – December 28, 2010
One year ago today my brother-in-law died. He was a young man finishing his course work to become an occupational therapist. He was preparing to propose to his girlfriend. Everything appeared to making sense in his life and then the unthinkable happened. He veered of the road trying to avoid a deer and his life was cut short.
That is the way that we feel about it. That is our perspective. Limited by time, space and grief. The way that we see the world and the events that take place in it, but God does not measure a life in the same way the we do. It is the quality of life lived for Him that pleases God most. This is a difficult lesson because it forces many of us to second guess what we have always believed. Many of us live, never fully committed to what God has called us to, never fully engaged in God’s mission for His people. And then, when we have little or no life left to give and no energy to offer we wish we had lived differently, better.
These are the thoughts that fill my mind and heart today.
Below are the remarks that I made during Jacob’s funeral.
I was looking at a Gideon New Testament on Wednesday that Jacob used and because of a crazy need for book pages to be kept straight I stopped and straightened the pages. I decided that if ever there was going to be a day to do the “flip and read” method of listening to God that would be it. I looked down and saw that I was in Second Corinthians 5. I would like to read to you a few verses.
1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
I needed to read that because that is exactly what Jacob believed and live out each and every day.
We were driving toward Harlem on Tuesday when Miranda’s aunt called and told me, “He’s gone.” That was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that Jacob was fine. I wanted to hear that Jacob had a broken leg. I wanted to hear that Jacob would never walk again. I could have handled any of those things, but not, “He’s gone.” That was not what I wanted to hear.
At 4:04 pm, December 28, 2010 – Miranda calls and tells me that Jacob has been in an accident. Twenty-nine minutes later, at 4:33 pm, Miranda’s aunt calls and our lives are turned upside down and radically changed forever.
There are days in all of our lives that we wish we could erase. Days like Tuesday. But, I can’t erase it. I have to live through it. The pain and sorrow that I feel, I have to believe, will fade. I’m just not sure how long it will take. We were driving through one of the many small towns in central Georgia on our way home and we came to a church that several times had been the object of our jokes because of its awful signs. You know the kind. The ones you roll your eyes at. But Tuesday we didn’t see a cheesy sign. We didn’t see a reason to joke. We saw a word from God written on plastic: “Jesus feels your pain.” I needed to see that. At that moment, I needed to know that we were not alone. The death [of a loved one] has a way of making you feel isolated and alone in your own skin.
Driving toward a reality you would rather forget has a way of unfolding the assumptions that you have about yourself. Listening to your wife cry out for answers and having none to give. Wanting to find words of comfort for her that just won’t come because you can’t find any for yourself. Crying, frustrated and angry with the reality that right now, in this instance, being the man of the house just isn’t enough to soothe the hurt that has opened up in the heart and soul of the people that you love brings you face-to-face with what you believe.
Perspective, often times comes to us at too high a price. What I have come to see today is that life is more precious than I could have ever imagined. Too often taken for granted. Never always enjoyed as it should be – it is such a precious gift.
I told my dad Tuesday that this is the closest I have ever come to doubting God’s existence. How could this happen? Why now? Why him? Isn’t this supposed to happen to bad people? Why does this stuff happen to good people too?
When my family drove across the state to join in our mourning we had some time to share about all that had happened. My dad told me that part of the reason we feel such a great shock from this event is due to the perception of wasted potential. Wasted potential.
That is why I refuse to believe that Jacob’s life was wasted because of any anger I feel that he was taken from us too soon. I refuse to believe that Jacob’s life was not reaching out to the extent that God had designed for him. I refuse to believe that God would have filled this one man with so much talent and grace to rob us of some future demonstration of his love. There was no wasted potential because Jacob was using it all up everyday and God was giving him a fresh dose every day.
I am coming to understand that death is NOT a part of life. It is the vicious violation of life. It is the devil’s way of mocking us and making us feel hopeless and helpless. The bible says that death is an enemy. I was struck by all that happens when a death occurs. Family, friends and communities rally together, not just for comfort and support. We gather together to boldly confess that death is not what God had planned for us.
God was at work in Jacob. Every movement of Jacob’s hand was fulfilling God’s purposes. In every step of his life WE felt the love of God. I feel cheated because I will no longer get to experience this reality, but God has not been cheated. God has been so glorified in the midst of all of this. I have heard the name of Jesus said so often this week.
I see Jacob with new eyes. Through the eyes of those that he served and loved and who loved me back. I have read of his gracious nature, his sincere smile, his gentle words, his quick wit, his sharp tongue. I have remembered late night conversations and early morning reflections. Jacob’s life was not wasted. He lived more in 24 years than most of us can even imagine living in a lifetime.
As a youth pastor I want to say something to the Journey students. You have seen what a life sold out for God looks like. You have enjoyed Jacob’s witness. God is giving you this opportunity to make a choice. You have a wonderful staff and amazing pastors that know what Jacob knew. Listen to them, talk to them and stop wondering if being sold out to Jesus will keep you from enjoying your life. Jacob had more fun than anyone I know. The bible says that he who humbles himself will be exalted. Look around you, I think that this is part of what that means.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe that God will bring us through this, but right now I am angry and hurt. I love God and I trust him, but I don’t like Him right now because I think my plan was better. I even feel a little guilty saying it. But my heavenly Father’s chest is big enough to handle the fists of his hurting son. My God is bigger that all of this [crap].
I don’t have the ability to understand this. There are no reasons, no explanations, no theological systems that can make sense of this right now for me. I want to wallow in my sadness. I may even need to. I don’t really know for sure.
There are many things that happen in our lives that are just beyond the ability of the mind to comprehend. The death of a young man too young to have seen what many of us have taken for granted has shaken me in ways that I never knew was possible. Jacob Carlyle Davis was an 11 year old punk when I began dating his older sister. When he died he was a 24 year old punk whom I had come to love and respect. He loved Jesus, his family and his church.
He was my brother. I love him for what he added to my life. I appreciate and admire him for how he lived out his faith in so many simple ways. And I will miss him in ways that I cannot express. Well done, Jacob. Well done.