A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere."
Nine years ago this day I lost a good friend. I have written about Gary DuVaul here before; a wonderful minister with whom I lost track of for a while, and then reconnected with about a year before he died.
Gary was beloved by many because he had this gregarious, joyful faith. He was a happy teacher, quick to put complicated teaching into easily understood lessons. He was a man who was excited about Christ, and if ever you were in a lonely place, Gary was there.
Once when I was in such a position, Gary was one of the first people to call me to set up a lunch meeting. We had it all set up: meet at Coco's On State College Blvd. at Chapman. Easy enough. So I headed to the restaurant and waited. And waited some more. And some more. About an hour past our meeting time, I called his office; which required me finding a pay-phone because this happened a bit before cell-phones were widespread. He answered, amazed that I called wondering where he was. He told me he went to Coco's and waited for me to arrive but after 45 minutes, he returned to his office. Then it hit us both at the same time: There are two Chapman Avenues that cross State College; one in Anaheim, and one in Fullerton, and at the time, Coco's had restaurants at both! We both broke out laughing simultaneously. Without even meeting, Gary's love ministered to me in that lonely place, bringing me from sorrow to laughter.
The world lost a joyous man that day nine years ago, but Gary, who had suffered some pretty bad events in his life, was certainly called home in to that place that he loved the most, in union with God for eternity. He may have been beaten down several times in his life, but he always came back radiating joy. I loved and admired that about him so very much.
Ever been in a lonely place and had someone step in to help deliver you from your sorrow? How precious those visits are. But even more amazing is that joy each of us can bring to another, if we are willing.
I find this passage interesting. The leper asks if Jesus would be willing to heal him, and Jesus actually gets indignant! "Of course I am willing!" I'm not so sure I am always as willing to step in to help, but I pray for the opportunity daily.
Need a friend? Then go be a friend. Be willing. Share the love of God enthusiastically. Open your heart, and discover how by lifting the spirits of others, you too will be lifted.