I have no right to author these words. To attempt to articulate the storm of emotion our campus is weathering today and will strain beneath for weeks, months, and years to come. Or to tearfully grasp at the depth of pain and disorientation that can only be consuming our sweet, sweet First Family. That task is above and beyond me.
But I’m writing today anyway, because I simply believe that words need to be written. To go from “Thriving” to “Still Thriving,” without stopping to acknowledge our collective heartbreak…without hitting pause on all our campaigning to tell you that we’re struggling to work today…that we have cried in meetings…that we fight to breathe sometimes…that we feel empty and broken and small…
That would violate something deep within me.
With the loss of our dear friend Joe, and the knowledge that President deSteiguer, his wife Darla, and daughter Abby, three of the purest and most wonderful people we know, have been hollowed raw with grief… we are adrift. We wash in and out of classrooms and offices, our minds dull and our hearts heavy, with little sense of time and even less of purpose.
There’s nothing to do. There’s little to say. The world turns on but everything we considered important yesterday now seems trivial. How can we give finals? How can we take them? How can we raise money or make strategic plans? How can we do anything but put our heads down and our feet forward, hoping against hope we find our way to something meaningful?
But, believe it or not, meaning is already here. And power. And grace. And love beyond my understanding.
I gush about Oklahoma Christian sometimes, and I know my romanticism can come across as overdone. But if you could be here, if you could see our watery eyes, hold our shaking hands, and hear the otherworldly sounds of heartache and praise being poured out to our Father this week, you would understand. This family is special. This family loves deeply and honestly and without fear. We celebrate and we suffer as one. And we do so through the provision of One who is over all and through all and in all.
Through tears today I watched John and Darla deSteiguer, beaten but as tall as I’ve ever seen them, stand among our graduating seniors and sing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” I don’t know if I’ve ever, or will ever again, see those old and honored phrases offered more genuinely. And immediately following that song, our students and staff began lining up to hug this sweet family that we love so, so much.
The Eagles are a remarkable few, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
But, what rings even more intensely for me today, is that I wouldn’t trade our greater church family, the people and the Spirit of our God. He is so big. And His love—that love I saw today, that hugs and weeps and quivers with powerful authenticity—is just overwhelming. It’s sufficient now as it was yesterday.
Today, I’m sore with emotion. But I’m praising God for the OC family. I’m praising God for gracious, kindhearted, and emotive leaders. For friends and loved ones. For my wife and my daughter. For the priceless gift of life and for the opportunity we have every day to live it well.
And I’m praising God for God, and for His incredible love that fills us when nothing else can.
If you do one thing for me today, don’t give to Thrive. Wherever you are, whatever you think is important, turn off your computer, turn off your phone, and go home. Leave work before 5pm if you can. Find the people you care about, hold them so tight, and empty yourself of every last ounce of love you have to give.
They’re worth it.