I have had a pretty rough day today. But for some friends of mine grieving in Virginia Beach, Virginia, there is no comparison.
Mark Rodriguez, a 17-year old student at Norfolk Christian school, was a victim of a random shooter on Chesapeake Boulevard. Mark was driving home from a graduation party when a bullet cut his life short. The shooter went on to kill a police officer, before being killed himself when he resisted arrest.
When Mark was just barely a toddler, his parents, Carlos and Leigh Ellen Rodriguez, lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, where I live. Carlos had come to serve as a missionary to high school kids in our community. It has been a long time, but I remember this little boy around their home, simply adored by their loving parents. I lost touch with the Rodriguez family after they left Williamsburg in 1999 or so, but I am so grateful that Carlos and Leigh Ellen stood in the gap as they sought to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with teenagers in our community. Little would I know then that their oldest child that I just barely knew would never live beyond those teenage years. You see these senseless acts of violence in the media, but when it happens to a family and friends you know, it simply stuns you. You grieve.
As I watched the story unfold on the local television station today, I was then encouraged by the words that Carlos, now a pastor of a church in Virginia Beach, shared about his son. Though his son’s death appears senseless to us, in God’s perspective, there is a profound and griping vision within God’s economy:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24 ESV).
Mark Rodriguez knew Jesus. In one short moment, his life on this earth was gone. Mark, an avid photography, kept a blog, but remarkably his last posting was about “Heaven”. You should read it.
At this point in time, it is difficult to know what fruit is being born because this grain of wheat was cut down. But as someone who has hope in Jesus, I am challenged by the immediacy of the task set before us to witness before a hopeless world of the grace and mercy found in Jesus and the hope of resurrection. As Mark Rodriguez wrote before his death:
God is super good. I can’t wait to be with him forever
Do you share that hope?