Me: How are you? (giving him a big hug)
Ron: Better now.
This. This is what I will miss. This little ritual that we had when we saw each other, that doesn’t really matter, but meant so much to me.
I first met Ron when he came down to visit his children who had moved to Texas and joined our church and a church plant we were part of. We often teased him and Joan that we were holding their children and grandchildren hostage to force them to visit more often. Ron fit easily in our church making me wonder if he wasn’t just a Texan at heart. Him and Dad, and a few other pastors I can think of, must have all shopped at the Reformed Baptist Pastors Hawaiian Shirt Shop. Before I had my own health issues, we spent many Wednesday nights at Chick-fil-a with Ron and a handful of others talking about theology, history, confessions, books, and movies. We enjoyed several movie nights whenever Ron was in town over at his daughter’s house.
What made me love him most though was how he invested in my husband, as a young preacher. My man doesn’t make friends easily. He loves his church and loves his family, but is a true introvert with only a handful of close friends. He and Ron took an instant liking to each other. I think it was their mutual love of the Old Testament. Ron would email him lists of books to read and constantly gift him books. That’s how the name Yankee Dad came about. Ron passed a book to me right as the service was starting on a Sunday and said, “Tell Price this is from his Yankee Dad.”
That’s what Ron meant to us.
Ron was one of the first people we told about my husband considering finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree so that he could go to Seminary. Ron had suggested it, talked with my husband about it, encouraged him to pursue it, and promised to pray for us. I was so excited to keep him posted on our progress.
A little earlier this summer, Ron joined me in the sound booth at church that I was managing, and gave me a gift. It was a book of letters Esther Edwards Burr wrote to her best friend. He said it reminded him of Pride and Prejudice as he read me a passage from it. Then he handed me a second copy and asked me to pass it to Stephanie, his “literary girls” he called us. I couldn’t me honored or in better company.
This was one of the last conversations we had. He preached one last time for us. And that was it.
The Lord took him home.
I can’t even type that without crying and yet it’s not a crying without hope. It’s not an angry crying, a bargaining crying, or depressed crying. It is the tears of a soul who has had to say good-bye for a time to another soul they loved. It’s is crying with HOPE. Hope and faith and love. This was not a mean death caused by some cosmic bully, but a kind and good going home of a faithful servant. Yes, we miss him. Yes, we all think of all the hopes we had of many more years of Ron’s faithful preaching and teaching and friendship. But, we trust the Lord that this was good.
I won’t forget the look on my husband’s face, the mixture of sadness and burden, when he came to tell me the news. I won’t forget him changing in a matter of minutes the Bible study he was doing to teach on death for a Christian and how is okay to grieve. I won’t forget him weeping himself through the study.
Already, I’ve heard of two cases where moms were able to speak of the Lord to their small children because of this. How happy would that make Ron? My house is going to be filled up with Renihans for his Memorial Service. How happy would that make Ron?
This death didn’t shake my faith, it only confirmed it further. Death’s sting has been removed because we will gather together again, glorified, and with our Lord and each other.
One of my favorite quotes is “Never out of the Fight” from Lone Survivor. As a Christian, we’re never out of the fight against sin and temptation. We are always battling our own lust and pride and hate while dealing with the consequences of the fallen world around us. We’re never out of the fight.
But, Ron is.
Ron is out of the fight.
His battle is done.
Done. Can you imagine not fighting against the sin nature still inside you? How weary are you of committing the same sins over and over, of never being able to do anything perfectly, of never truly completing something? How ready are you to see Christ? To be united in perfect love with your church family with no more bickering or misunderstandings? How ready?
Ron is there. Now.
He is out of the fight.
He is with Christ.
That is why I can weep in hope and even with joy.
I will miss my Yankee Dad. I will weep for the things that didn’t happen, and for the family he left behind who I dearly dearly love. But I will see him again.