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Revelations: Of life and death

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS
Dec. 14, 2012 at 6:14 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

I discovered a website earlier this week that sells T-shirts with doltish slogans on the front.

As I scrolled through the page, a few of the T-shirts inspired a chuckle, like, "If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong" or "On the other hand, you have different fingers."

They're funny, right? They make you smile.

They would make me smile if I saw someone wearing one.

But as I scrolled down the page, I read a slogan that wasn't so funny.

It read, "Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die."

If I'd read the shirt two weeks ago, I likely would have giggled and moved on to the next one.

But the line reminded me of my recent interview with Andrew Heard, a 30-year-old stage four lung cancer patient and former youth pastor, who is expected to die in about six months.

The T-shirt, in an obvious sort of way, reminded me that Andrew's health is the only thing preventing him from living past 30.

And in an obvious sort of way, the T-shirt reminded me that he's going to die too soon.

I can't really claim that I know Andrew. I'm not invested in his life beyond the few interviews we shared.

But he's got one of those personalities and minds that demands you pay attention. He's weird, he's accomplished, he's complicated, he's inspiring.

He makes you think you're weird and accomplished and complicated and inspiring.

I'm certain he makes everyone think this way.

I'm certain if he were to live a few years longer, he could use his talents to accomplish big things for God's hopelessly divided church.

I'm certain if he were to live a few years longer, he would figure out a way to show others how to love God, love people and turn the world upside down.

And I'm certain if you were to ask him if he was equipped to do these things, he would probably say, "Heck, no."

That's why I left my interview with Andrew pained and miffed that God was taking him.

Because I'm convinced Christians and non-Christians alike would benefit from his spiritual and intellectual gifts.

Andrew is equipped to change lives, I think. He's equipped to change the church, I'm certain.

What I admire about Andrew is that he doesn't apologize for having too much education or information about his faith, while not being able to prove God's existence.

He doesn't apologize for his progressive and nonthreatening theological psychology or for loving the Lord and fighting to know him.

He doesn't apologize for loving people that some Christian groups might judge or shun him for desiring relationships with.

And he doesn't apologize for using this agreeable, full-disclosure method during conversations on spirituality: "Here is what I know. Here is what I don't know. Here is what is knowable. Here is what is not knowable. Ask God questions. Demand answers. Don't get hung up on the unknowables."

This is how I would sum him up.

So, while I've been trying in recent weeks to reconcile my own understanding of why someone like Andrew is destined to die while serial killers and child molesters are roaming free among us, I settled on a comforting thought.

I thought about Jesus and the importance of his death.

Sure, Jesus' life influenced and changed The Twelve.

But it was Jesus' death that has influenced and changed the world in every century following.

Simply put, Jesus' life and Christianity doesn't matter if Jesus didn't die.

I'm certainly not comparing Andrew to a divine Jesus. But perhaps God is using Andrew's death so that people will sit up and take notice of his life, which is centered around family and a beautiful relationship and trust in God.

So, here's to your health, Andrew. I pray your days are long and full.

But should you leave the world sooner than your family and friends would prefer, I pray your life and love of God will be remembered and celebrated in your death.

And just so you know, you don't have to worry. I didn't buy you that T-shirt.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.

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