If the answer is no, we might as well quit. Death has won, and there’s no hope for life, now or in eternity. Sean Gauley’s parents can give up now, because who can bear it when their 18-year old son on his way home from college survives a horrific car accident, fights for a month and then is gone?
If the answer is yes, well, then we have something to work with. Then we know that death is beaten. It may yet have some sting, but in the end, it will be no match for the One who will return to banish it forever. There is hope for life, both now and in eternity.
So which is it?
The answer, most emphatically, is yes. Christ did rise from the dead. And because he did, Jim and RaeAnne Gauley can raise their hands in praise at their son’s funeral. They can smile when you walk up to hug them. They can comfort you. They can have a peace that passes the understanding of a disbelieving world. They can explain in sweet submission that the giant “WHY?” in all of our minds is not the right question because it presumes that we can understand God’s ways, and who can understand the mind of the One who laid the foundations of the earth? What we do know is God’s character, they say, and we must trust it.
The Gauleys are the best of the best. They wouldn’t tell you that, of course. But ask anyone who knows them, anyone whose children have spent time in Mr. Gauley’s classroom, anyone whose kids have been friends with their kids, anyone who has worked with them or gone to church with them or even simply known them. These are the people we look at and say, “I want to raise my kids like them. I want to point my family to Christ like them. I want to be humble like them. I want to be joyful like them. I want to love others like them. I want to know my Savior like them.”
All of that? It’s from God. It’s not the Gauleys. This grace, this faith, this character — they’re all free gifts from a loving Father. And so when their tsunami hit, they could not survive it alone, just like they couldn’t do any of those other things on their own. It was more than they could handle and they would have been washed away but for the grace in which they stand.
They are broken and hurting and raw and still running on emotion and adrenaline and hugs and support and prayers. They are just beginning a road that they will always walk. Dark days are ahead, days where they will wake up and for a split second won’t remember that their youngest son is farther away than just his dorm room. When the reality dawns, they will need all the faith and grace that God can give them.
During the funeral. Jim and Austin and Jeremiah all stood on stage, remembering their son and brother, laughing, crying, saying farewell. The Gauley men stood united, but there were only three where there used to be four. Until you raised your eyes a little and saw Sean’s smiling face on the big screen, just above his dad and brothers. All four Gauley men, together for 18 years, for a moment yesterday and — though separated for a little while — for eternity to come.
One day, we will witness the III reunited, will glimpse a sister’s tears of joy, will see a dad completed, will watch a mom fling her arms around her baby boy. Sean’s family will dance with him, soak in his smile, drink in his presence, feast with him for ages to come.
That will only happen because Christ’s death not only defeated death for him, but for all who believe in him. Our future is secure because the second Adam paid for the sins of the first with his death and resurrection.
Sean believed. His parents believe.