Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wrestle while you can

This past week an seminary colleague and friend died after a decade long battle with a rare form of cancer. Dan LaGue was only 46 but he packed more eternal value in to those years than many people who have been able to live much longer.

Dan committed to serve Christ as a missionary around the time he was 20 years old. He served with Campus Crusade for Christ for the rest of his life. He travelled abroad to many places but seemed fixed on Hungary as the place God would have him stay for some time. Instead he was diagnosed with cancer less than 2 years after moving to Hungary and returned to the States for treatment, but he didn't stop ministry. He actually enrolled in grad school to further his theological training. I met him at Covenant Seminary where we were classmates around 1997. Shortly after I moved to Kansas City he came also and continued on staff at Campus Crusade, teaching at various local churches, including a Church History course at Redeemer, all the while waging an ongoing battle against cancer. Dan and Carol enrolled all their children at Westminster so I have been able to see them regularly. Coaching two of their sons has been a real treat. To be sure, Dan wasn't scared of dying, nor did he resent God's Will for His life. Some people pay lip service to the Sovereignty of God, others live it. Dan did the latter. In the midst of his experience he wrote a great little brochure on dealing with affliction to comfort people struggling like he was. I have multiple copies and have given it out many times.

Dan had a tremendous wife, loving extended family, church family, and many ministry colleagues and friends. Despite the fitting grief of the moment, there was a clear, unmistakable, underlying joy about Dan's homegoing this week, especially at the visitation last night and memorial service earlier today. I only knew Dan slightly compared to so many others, but I am thankful for my contact with him these past 10 plus years.

Something in particular struck me today as I sat in the memorial service contemplating the riches of eternity with Christ against the backdrop of our temporal earthly existence and the pain of being separated from one we love. I was struck with my need to live every second for eternity.

You might think living for eternity means studying the bible more, teaching better, preaching more profoundly, sharing Christ with more people, etc. While those things are eternally significant and part of my life and calling, they are not the only activities of eternal significance. The man who led the memorial service spoke of how Dan loved to wrestle and play with his three boys (yep, Dan has three sons...that hits home). In the last few years Dan was too weak to wrestle with them. How he would have loved to wrestle with his boys just a few more times! Not so much for his sake, but for his sons sake. Don't get me wrong, as his young sons mature (his youngest is 8 years old) they will look at their father's time with fondness and appreciation, despite how short it was. Dan did everything he could for his family, so it's not like he squandered opportunities. Even as recently as a few months ago he had friends wheel his hospital bed in to the Westminster Gym to see his middle son play a basketball game. That was the last time I got to talk to him. He laid in his bed at the end of the gym watching his son play. Dan squeezed all the juice out of life he could, his sons will remember that.

So this is what I'm taking from today, among other things- I need to wrestle with my sons while I can.

None of us will live one second less or more than God ordains, but while we have breath, let each of us remember that people are eternal, meaning they will live forever. Spending time with the ones we love and are called to disciple is always a good use of the time God is giving us. Many times when my little boys say "Dad, will you play with me" or "Dad, let's wrestle" I will say "Not now...I'm tired...I'm busy...etc.". Thanks to Dan, I'm going to do my best to not put them off.

I'm going to wrestle while I can.


Rick Calohan said...

My sincerest condolences to the LaGue family and friends of Dan, and while they mourn they too shall remember those precious moments with their husband, father, son, friend and the beautiful testament of a Christian life in this world and the world to come. With John approaching 17 months and that by God’s Grace and Divine Providence in 8 months we shall be blessed with our second child and I shall be dare I say it 43 years old, the precious moments we have our children, spouses and parents I share cherish of this world but knowing what lies ahead I praise God for what He has given me so far and what is to come and what shall be when I see Him in His Glory face to face. Thank you Tony for sharing this with me, I have shared it with others may they Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen, amen and may they forever Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below; praise Him above ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Frontier Forest said...

Pastor T. thanks so much for sharing this moving and compelling story. Hearing this takes me back to the times I failed, I choose not to be there for my 2 kids. Saying, “I am too busy right now” is pathetic, especially in light of those precious lost opportunities to invest in my children’s future memories of times with dad. Thanks to Rick too, that is a great pledge to make to your family. Congrat’s to you and Dorothy on the new little one!

Malcolm said...

I am grateful for Dan's teaching in the evening services a few years back. It is obvious know how brave he was and where that bravery came from. Thank you for introducing him to those of us at Redeemer.