- David Hickman
For the last 7 years, I’ve had the privilege of leading a multi-church, collaborative outreach service geared towards reaching people in their 20’s and 30’s for Christ and the local church in Charlotte, NC called, CharlotteONE.
Like any ministry, it takes an enormous amount of volunteers to do what we do each week. Throughout the years, I’ve seen volunteers come and go—all of whom have been greatly appreciated and deeply valued.
However, only one so far has truly captured my heart.
The first time I met Ricky Edney, I wasn’t sure what to think. His bald, elongated head along with his thin appearance and weak voice made it apparent that he was battling some type of sickness—and possibly anger and resentment. (I know how sickness has a way of making us miserable—and rightfully so.) However, Ricky was one of the most kind and gentle human beings I had ever met.
When he was 31-years-old Ricky was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL). He had bounced around from support group to support group and had yet to find any real sense of community. Therefore, looking for support (as much as community) Ricky joined our “tech team” as he absolutely loved electronics.
As a part of CharlotteONE, Ricky modeled relentless selflessness.
Through chemo, bone marrow transplants, radiation, and blood transfusions, Ricky rarely missed a CharlotteONE. I know in some organizations, volunteers can become the faceless people who do all the dirty work so the organizers/leaders don’t have to. However, at CharlotteONE, from day one our culture has been for the leaders to be the servants. Therefore, I worked side-by-side with Ricky setting up screens, running cables, and positioning LCD projectors.
It’s amazing how doing simple tasks with someone creates some of the strongest bonds.
Over the last year, Ricky’s health quickly deteriorated. His form of HL was both stubborn and unrelenting. It never gave up. However, Ricky was just as stubborn and just as unrelenting. He also never gave up.
However, last Monday at 4:05pm EST, the grudge match ended…in a second.
Throughout his battle with HL, Ricky used to always say two things back-to-back:
1) Everything happens for a reason.
2) A lot can change in a second.
I know that many disagree with the first saying. However, none of us can argue with the second.
Regarding the first, what exactly does “everything” entail and what is the possible “reason” for which “all things” happen?
Well, Paul in Romans 8:28 will say that “all things” work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We typically stop reading there, but the next verse goes on to state that the “good” that comes from “all things” is experienced by those whom God foreknew and predestined to be “conformed to the image of his Son”.
So what does “everything” entail? All things I suspect.
Does this mean that God causes all these things to happen? I would argue not. In saying that, though, I’m not presenting a case that God has lost control of the world or is up in heaven trying to figure out how to do damage control. Quite the opposite - God, in His supreme and utter sovereignty, uses the “bad” that we experience in this broken world for His good.
What is that “good”? Verse 29 - to shape and mold us into the image of his Son Jesus. How does he do that? Through everything. Every joy, every pain, every gain, and every loss, God lovingly uses to work perseverance, forgiveness, patience, love, and grace into our lives. No wonder James will say that we should consider it a “pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. Because the trials that we face in this life are beautifully redeemed by Abba and leveraged to conform us into the likeness of His Son–who, Himself, suffered greatly.
Therefore, the reason behind everything (and I mean everything) is to shape and mold us into the image of Christ.
Regarding the second, how can we even begin to argue?
5 years ago, a lot changed for Ricky in a second when he was diagnosed with HL.
His life went from the careless bliss of a single 31-year-old, to the grueling life of a young man now infested with cancer. His hopes, dreams, and aspirations for marriage, kids, career -all pulled into question–in a second. A lot changed in a second for Ricky when he was told that the “breakthrough” drug that he had to fight the drug company to take resulted in his cancer spreading to his liver and his existing spots becoming 20% larger. I was there when the doctors gave him this news–and it wasn’t pretty.
When we think about how a lot can change in a second, we typically think of the bad–how life can change for the worse in a moment. Still, a lot can change for the good in a second as well. You can meet that special someone in a second, you can get that new job offer in a second, you can find out that you are pregnant with your first child–all in a second.
At 4:05pm EST last Monday, surrounded by friends and family, a LOT changed for Ricky–in a second. In a “twinkling of an eye” Ricky’s faith became sight. The Jesus that Ricky had been talking to since he was a young child, he finally saw face-t0-face–in a second.
In one second, he was fighting for his next breath. In the next second, Abba was breathing His sweet breath of Eternal Life into Ricky’s nostrils. It’s amazing to think that Ricky didn’t miss one single breath.
In one second, cancer and death was about to win. In the next, both were swallowed up in victory–all in a second.
May the wisdom of my friend, Ricky rest upon you today as you go through life understanding that all things do happen for a reason, and a lot can change in a second.
David serves as the founder and lead visionary of CharlotteONE and CityONENetwork, providing the overall leadership and strategic thinking for these unified movements of local churches. David is passionate about seeing 20-30 somethings come to know the love of God through Jesus Christ. Read more of David's thoughts on his blog and be sure to follow him on twitter.