Sipping a steaming cup of coffee, I began my morning time of prayer. It was a Wednesday, my day set aside exclusively to focus on sermon preparation, when the phone rang. I instantly knew something was wrong. One of our ministers informed me an emergency meeting had been called, and I needed to report to our staff meeting room immediately.
As I entered, I heard four words, “Eddy Curry passed away.” Eddy was our minister of education, friend and mentor.
Taking a deep breath, I sat down in the closest empty chair. Many emotions flooded my mind: disbelief, shock, anger.
Eddy was our friend
Eddy and I were scheduled to meet that day, Aug.14, 2019, as we did most days. We had lunched together at a local burger joint with our staff less than 24 hours prior. I then found myself working to communicate with the church he loved so much and served so well about his passing.
Later that night we began to plan his funeral.
I was numb. Life seemed surreal, yet painfully real. I lost a friend I came to describe as a “foxhole” friend. The kind of friend you could share anything with, without judgment. The kind who had your back, liked to poke fun, and worked tirelessly for the church’s mission, our Lord’s mission.
Eddy was a stabilizing force
Eddy Curry was not a shooting star that would shine for seconds and go out. Eddy was a North Star, a constant stabilizing force, a spiritual father guiding people for generations to come in the way of Jesus.
With Eddy, every person was seen, heard and known. From the youngest babies in our daycare to the most senior saints, everyone mattered to Eddy. A teacher’s teacher, life and the things of God were his subject.
He served as minister of education at Pioneer Drive for the last 14 years. Previously, he served churches in Plainview, Levelland, Hobbs, N.M., and Fort Worth. His passion was seeing men and women, boys and girls grow in discipleship through small group Bible studies. He had tremendous impact on countless lives. A minister’s minister, Eddy mentored numerous young men and women cutting their teeth in ministry.
More than what Eddy did, we miss who Eddy was.
Eddy’s chair is empty
In the days that followed, there has been something deeply significant missing: an empty chair, a phone unanswered, a prank undone. Death certainly has a sting.
Eddy often would come into my office, snap his fingers, ask me, “Is it all good?” and sit down in one of my wingback chairs where we would discuss family, troubleshoot a challenge we were facing, or dream about our future church facility. As I prepared to preach Eddy’s service, I found myself thinking, “No, Eddy, I’m not good.”
Grief’s relationship to love & hope
The thing about grief is it never truly ends; it changes. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a signal of lacking faith. Grief is the price of love. The only way not to grieve is not to love.
As a Christian, we grieve, and it’s OK to grieve because without love there would be no need to grieve. We grieve differently, unlike the rest of the world who has no hope. We grieve with hope.
There is a secret to the kingdom of God. Barbara Brown Taylor said, “New life begins in the dark, whether a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, new life begins in the dark.”
Out of our darkness, God always is working to bring light to the darkest situations. We grieve, but with the hope of the resurrected Christ, we believe in our darkness that Eddy began his new life in the presence of our Risen Savior.
Grief’s relationship to thanksgiving
Today I would do anything to rewind the clock. I believe in miracles, and I would love to have seen a miracle on Aug. 14. But as I reflect on my friend Eddy, maybe, just maybe, the great miracle, the object of wonder, was Eddy’s presence and love in the first place.
Eddy Curry was a gift, a gift to his family, his church and to the broader Texas Baptist family. For the miracle God gave us in Eddy, we say an overwhelming thanks be to God for Eddy.
John Whitten is lead pastor of The Gathering, a minister of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas, and is a member of the Baptist Standard board. Views expressed are those solely of the author.