About 15 years ago I read No Compromise, the biography of Keith Green written by his wife, Melody. While I was encouraged and challenged as I read of the very real faith and life of Keith Green, one particular statement stuck with me from the moment I read it. Melody wrote something to the effect of watching Keith Green sing and play piano on stage one night and she had a fleeting thought that went something like this: "He is not going to be here long." She explained that he had such an intimacy with the Father that she felt he was just mere moments away from meeting his Lord and Savior face to face. If you know the story of Keith Green he was killed in an airplane accident before he even hit the age of 30. Tragic, but the thought that his wife had some years earlier turned out to be prophetic. After reading that, I've strived to be the type of person who people see God in. Most days I fail miserably. I've also been around people who I have that same sense that Melody had towards Keith...they have such a burning desire to know God intimately that you just sense that it wouldn't be a stretch for them to leave this life early and enter into complete communion with God.
One of those persons that I saw this very thing in and on was Derek Taatjes. He was the youth pastor at our church. But, more importantly than that, he was a father, a husband, and a friend. Last night he and his baby boy, Dylan, were killed in a house fire, leaving his wife and two young girls. I wasn't extremely close to Derek, but we were friends. I partnered with him by leading worship for the high school youth ministry for a couple of years. I listened to his teaching from scripture. We had lunch together every now and then. And, even though we weren't close, I could sense a deep love for God, a deep love for his family, and a deep desire to be with Jesus. I'm sure he didn't want to leave his family just yet, but I can't help but imagine him finally in the place where he longed to be. One of the last times I led worship at the youth group he taught at, I remember hearing him say something to the effect of, "We don't know when we'll be done here. So make the most of every opportunity you have to worship God." Those weren't his direct words, but it was something along those lines.
And so now, we mourn with his wife and little girls who will miss him more than any of us. We pray for peace and comfort. And we rejoice. Derek and his little boy never have to suffer again. They are home, doing what they were created to do. This is just more finality for what was finished 2011 years ago when Christ gave up his breath on the cross.
"Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?"