At the outset we may not know the reasons why a person enters and exits our lives. But if you are living and breathing, you are in a constant cycle of embracing and letting go.
Ten years ago, God arranged for someone to enter my life that, unbeknownst to me, would leave it not long after. Before now, I have never officially written down this story, and time would not allow for all the details and nuances of God’s plan, but I would like to share a little bit about what God taught me through Joey Laflamme.
I was a wide-eyed twenty year old, finishing my first year of Bible College, and approaching a season that would leave me forever changed. I had briefly met the then 18 year-old Joey at my home church in Baltimore when he visited from Massachusetts, and again at a European church conference. He had it all going for him, he loved God, was a worship leader, loved people, and if it couldn’t have gotten any better, he played football. I mean can a girl ask for anything more?
Fast forward to our youth retreat, and since we both sang, we thought it would be fun to do a duet at the retreat. From that retreat in May to our church’s international conference in the summer I was head over heels. One of the last nights of our conference we went to a park and talked till the sun came up. I had never before experienced God through another person like I did with him.
Joey went back to Massachusetts, gearing up to return to Baltimore in the fall for Bible college. Joey’s poor mom would find him sitting in an empty bathtub, at some ungodly hour talking to me because it was the only place in his house he had reception. I visited Massachusetts, he visited Baltimore, and that summer God set the standard for what a Godly man looked like.
It was everything I had hoped for, all at once.
Joey moved to Baltimore, and not long after, I felt an undeniable stirring from the Holy Spirit that I was not expecting. For one week straight God was relentless in telling me to give Joey back to God. No guarantee of a return. No explanation. Clearly, I fought, bargained, pleaded, but finally accepted.
When I came to Joey with what God had been speaking to me, he dropped his head, and told me that he had been fighting the exact same word from God. We sat there stunned, but knowing what had to be done.
We trusted that there must be a reason why God wanted this type of blind and unconditional obedience from us in our relationship, so we opened our hands, and our hearts, and gave back to God the relationship he so generously gave us.
Less than one month later, Joey and four others were traveling up to a youth rally in Massachusetts and got into a tragic car accident. Joey and one other boy, Josiah, were killed.
The news reached us that something had happened so a group of us gathered in our chapel praying and waiting. When the final news came, it blew through my heart like nothing ever had.
I had never before, and never again like that, experienced the sovereign hand of God so intimately and personally engaged in my life. I could have gotten along not even knowing Joey, but in one years time, he became one of the most important people in my life; all the while God knowing He was in the twilight of his life.
At first I thought this was cruel, but later I discovered that all of it, the good and the painful, was a treasure; a gift. God was merciful in removing the relationship when he did, because while we were together we had planned to travel up to that youth rally together, and God knew I would have never been able to handle being in that position.
I found that the pain of the break up was God’s merciful hand keeping me from enduring more than I needed to. And although God calling him Home was another pain all its own, I discovered in it a depth to God that I had never known.
Loving Joey was my privilege. God entrusted him to me for a season, and when that season was over it was time to entrust him to God alone.
No matter how difficult and mysterious God’s ways are, know that He is not just wise but merciful, and intends that everything we pass through would not destroy us but rather make us more beautiful; more like His Son.
This took me awhile to see, but after the dust settled, I started to see it all so clearly.
Ten years ago today God called Joey Home, and because of his life, and his passing I am just one who has been forever impacted and changed. At the crash site there was a note found written by Joey that said, “It’s worth it all.”
I can honestly say that although I never in a million years would have asked for this pain, I can now see it’s priceless and immeasurable value, and am forever grateful for God allowing me to be a part of Joey Laflamme’s life.