Five years ago I was still living at home in Roanoke, VA when Uncle Jayson walked into my room and told me the news.
My heart sank, and the atmosphere became heavy. As he was sobbing uncontrollably, he said, “I’m so sorry Cody, your dad killed himself last night.”
It was one of those surreal moments that you can’t quite grasp and that you never think will happen to you. As I found myself comforting him and saying that I was okay, still in shock of what was happening, I realized something. In the midst of one of the most tragic moments of my life I felt peace. Even though I was facing a flood of emotion and confusion, I had peace because I was rooted deep in a truth that no earthly situation could dictate.
I have a Father.
My Father loves me unconditionally.
My Father will never leave me or forsake me.
My Father is the Creator of all things and that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him; who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
8,000 miles away, on the other side of the world, there is a group of 50+ children who lost their parents because they stood firm in their faith and refused to deny the name of Jesus. More than a hundred were murdered and thousands injured in a targeted persecution.
Last month I had the opportunity to go and spend time with these amazing kids. Their pain and suffering has been great, their loss even greater. Yet, if you were to walk into the House of Love orphanage, you would see smiling faces full of a joy that simply doesn’t make sense outside of knowing a God who is bigger than our circumstances. It was a beautiful sight and we had a BLAST. We played duck-duck goose, soccer, cricket; we had five-minute dance parties (which doesn’t sound like a lot but it looked like I had just taken a shower when we were done); and our team got to encourage the kids at the end of each night with a teaching from scripture. Though, I’m pretty sure I learned more from them than they did from me.
When I think about my new friends and the ones who lost their lives for their faith, a quote from C.S. Lewis comes to mind, maybe you’ve read it. It's from the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it says:
“Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Disclaimer: Following Jesus isn’t safe.
Yet, when we know the goodness of the Father we can walk in confidence and freedom despite our circumstances.
I believe the reason these kids are still able to smile from ear-to-ear and have a deep joy in their hearts is the same reason I was able to have peace when my dad passed. They have been raised to believe deep in their hearts that they are fully known and fully loved. They know who they are because they know whose they are.
They are Jesus’ beloved. We are Jesus’ beloved.
These new friends of mine have taught me more about what it looks like to be a child of God. To live life with joy based on the gentle whispers of my identity not what I’m facing today or what I can see with my eyes. They have encouraged me to believe more than ever that no matter the cost, be it my life, following Jesus is worth it.
I pray that we would be men and women whose faith moves us to action.
It may not be safe.
It will probably be uncomfortable.
It will definitely be an adventure.
Let’s pick up our swords and storm the gates of hell together.
Field Coordinator, Cody Lawhorn:
During his first year of college, Cody felt a tug toward international missions but brushed it off, choosing to focus on his involvement with YoungLife and his studies in exercise science. But after graduating and working in physical therapy, Cody realized the tug toward missions had never left. So in April of this year, Cody hopped on a plane to Africa with ATC, and returned home with a new position as Field Coordinator.
When he's not leading trips or coordinating with local leaders, Cody can be found at his local thrift store buying everything he never knew he needed or sipping a mean pour-over coffee.