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Day 5: The death of a student

August 15, 2018

I just received word that one of my former students passed away.

He was 29 years old.

Many years when our school was much smaller, I taught him in numerous classes, including 8th grade Bible.  He was a reflective young man and a serious Christian. Over the years I had the occasion to meet him in town and we would sit and chat.  The most recent time was at the Turkey Creek shopping complex, where we met at Earth Fare’s cafe and chatted for over an hour.  He was seriously seeking the Lord’s will for his life.

And now he’s gone.

I contacted his sister – also a former student – and promised prayer for God’s peace at this deep time of grief.  I am keeping that promise.

Every teacher I know takes the loss of a student hard.  Every Christian teacher I know takes it even more deeply.

But it hits a Bible teacher most powerfully.  On every occasion the first thing I ask myself is did I do enough?  When the student was in my care, did I present the Bible clearly?  Did I answer all of the questions they needed to resolve?  Did I listen when they talked?

Did I present Jesus as He truly is?

It’s our burden.  It’s a daily trial.

In the mornings as we unlock our doors and enter into the fresh-made classroom, we look at our rows of neatly arranged desks and the bookshelves of textbooks next to the well-used file cabinets and bulletin boards, and we bask in the temporary orderliness of the physical surroundings.  Too soon, though, our day has numerous spills, surprises and blind-sided challenges that take away the desire for spit-spot rhythm.  We have students that are hurting, wondering, wandering, and even afraid.  We are burdened with the need to reach out and serve in the midst of all of the rush.

Of course I know that God in His infinite mercy and power can communicate truths in ways that go beyond mortal man, and yet I have been called to a specific ministry – and I am responsible for carrying it out.  I identify with the servant of Abraham who said “I, being in the way, the Lord led me.”  I, as well as all Bible teachers, realize that we are on the specific path of education that has more responsibility to present Bible truths than any other educator’s role on this campus.  Students look to us first and foremost to get spiritual answers.  We do not take that lightly.

This might puzzle those outside of the Christian faith who may ask, “Well, if he’s in Heaven, isn’t that good?  Isn’t that what you want?”

Yes, but we suffer from the loss of being with them here on Earth.  We feel the pain of those closest to the one who is now gone.  They look to see him, talk with him, enjoy him, love him while we walk this Earth. There is a yawing void in their lives that will not be filled while on this Earth, except through “the peace that passes all understanding,” coming from God the Father Himself.

I am reminded of the deep grief Jesus felt when He saw the weeping family surrounding the tomb of the deceased Lazarus.  He wept also.

I weep also for this young man’s family.

And I am also reminded that every moment – every moment! – in my classroom is a moment of ministry.   In knowing the precariousness of time and the brevity of life itself, I want to be able to rise above simple instruction.

Every day is precious.


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