Eleven years ago today, Jason Albright, along with some other amazing men, stood next to me as I made a covenant with my wife to live together in marriage no matter what came. Little did I know how much I would need my new bride’s support 10 years from that day, on our tenth anniversary, when Jason Albright was tragically hit by a car and killed, leaving his beautiful bride and his perfect little daughter behind.
Jason was one of those guys that was a friend for life. It didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same city, it didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same state, if either one of us needed anything the other would have been there, no questions asked, he was like the biological brother to me that I never had. We talked on the phone all the time and he was a genuine source of encouragement and friendship for me especially in the last few years with all of the high highs and deep lows that come from planting a church.
On January 18th, 2013, he had pulled over to the side of the road trying to heroically help another young lady, whom he didn’t know, who was involved in a scary car accident and having problems. As he was helping her out of her car and tending to her needs to the best of his ability, another car flew through the accident scene and hit Jason and another man. This tragic event took his life.
In that one moment, Amy & I’s tenth anniversary was completely outweighed by, the absolute, tragic, heart breaking loss of one of my best friends. I just couldn’t believe it, it was completely surreal. You aren’t supposed to die when you are in your early thirties with a great marriage, job, newborn and life. Nothing about it was fair. I cried for weeks, every single day. If I think about it too long now, I’ll start crying again, this blog post is not helping my effort. I can’t even begin to fathom the depths of grief that Jason’s wife felt and feels every day in his absence. I pray for her and their little girl almost every single day still, a year later, and would ask you to do the same.
January 18th will for the rest of my life be a complicated day, but also a day of celebration. I celebrate the goodness of God to me in giving me a partner, a friend, a lover, someone to share life with, and Amy is as good as they come. My wife is a display of the grace of God to me in my life. The reason we can have a great marriage, and take a crazy adventure together in an initially strange and foreign city and plant SouthCoast Church in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is because of the resurrection of Christ and His grace towards us. I would have quit already if it wasn’t for Him. The other reason that I can celebrate today is because of the resurrection of Christ. The hope that I have is not some fairy tale, its not some feel good story, its that Jesus overcame death, even the death of one of my best friends by overcoming the grave and rising again.
Today, more than ever, that resurrection is a declaration, it is a source of hope for me. The resurrection is so amazing that even in Jason’s death, Jesus became more real to me. To be honest, I had never NEEDED the resurrection like I did in that moment. Don’t get me wrong, I NEEDED it theologically, I understood what it meant, I understand that its the crux of Christianity. But that day, I NEEDED the resurrection. I NEEDED it to encourage me and build me up. I NEEDED it to keep me from feeling hopeless and drowning in a sea of questions asking why and being angry at God. I NEEDED it because I NEEDED to see Jason again. My heart still longs for his friendship and encouragement. I NEEDED to hear his infectious laugh again. I NEEDED his encouragement when I am discouraged and fighting for faith in this church planting adventure. As goofy as it may sound to some of you, I NEEDED it to celebrate with Jason when OUR Seminoles won the National Championship a week and a half ago. I NEEDED the resurrection not only theologically, but emotionally and relationally.
Even though many of these celebrations cannot be experienced fully in life right now, they fall into that beautiful gospel truth that we as followers of Christ live in the, “already, but not yet” stage of life. We get to experience God’s grace, glory, love, eternity, etc., but not in their fullness. We still live in a broken world, marred by sin and death. I know that I will get to celebrate and experience all these little things again, with Jason in heaven for eternity. That hope, that truth, makes his loss bearable. I am able to go about my life, celebrating the joys and beauty that God gives me everyday without allowing the sting of his death to make every experience one that I must experience without his friendship, but something that I can authentically celebrate.
The reason I can celebrate today, is because the grace of God, that came through the resurrection of Jesus, has given me a beautiful marriage. The reason I can celebrate today, is because the grace of God, that came through the resurrection of Jesus, has given me the hope, that Jason and I’s story isn’t over, and in fact, it never will be. We get to spend eternity together. You can’t make me a better offer than that.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:55, quoting the prophet Hosea, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where O Death, is your sting?” Jesus resurrection removed the finality that up until that point had been death. Because of the resurrection, death is no longer death, its actually a place of birth for followers of Christ. A birth into a new and better life, that Jason is currently experiencing because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Jason’s reality is not a Hallmark card claiming he is in a better place, looking down on us, watching over us. That’s just what people with no hope in Jesus tragically tell themselves to make themselves feel better about the finality of death. Jason’s reality right now is joy and perfection. His reality is his infectious laugh making the other saints laugh, playing practical jokes on Peter and teaching Moses our patented pelvic thrust from our classic youth group song, Pharaoh, Pharaoh. He is reveling, basking and worshipping in the glory of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and I can’t wait to join him when the Lord decides to take me.