Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)
In the genealogies of Genesis 5, this line regarding Enoch stands out because it does not say that Enoch died, as it does of all the others listed, but that he simply ‘was not’. For reasons we cannot know, his transition was different. The writer of Hebrews says that he did not ‘see death’. He simply was no more because God took him. Enoch’s uniqueness lies in his not tasting death. All who walk in faith and then leave this life do so because ‘God took him’.
God took my friend Dave yesterday. Dave did, in fact, see death, but it was, as far as we know at this point, quick and without terror. He was recovering at home following successful by-pass surgery when God, through a means not yet known, took him.
Dave pastored a church in my denomination. His church was located five miles from the one I pastored and as for a time, while his church was in its early days, we shared a building, we had much more contact than many pastors might. As different as we were, we became friends. It was a friendship that for me was essential for my persevering as a pastor.
A few months ago I was asked to serve on a panel discussing how pastors stay mentally and spiritually healthy. My primary contribution to that panel was first to say that I’m not sure that I am healthy. But I went on to say that if perseverance is any indication of health, I owe that to a small group of friends who have both believed in me and have loved me with all my faults. Foremost, a pastor needs other pastors before whom all facades are removed and complete honesty can prevail. Few pastors have this. Dave became that for me.
Fred B. Craddock was a man who for many years trained pastors. He made sure that he got to students early in their seminary education to tell them this:
You very likely…will experience lapses in your own personal faith. Do not panic. In the interim between the lapse of faith and the return of faith…let the church believe for you until your own faith returns. (Craddock on the Craft of Preaching, page 8)
Dave believed for me and I for him during those lapses over 20 years of ministry. One cannot measure the gift that was. It is rare. And one cannot imagine that being gone.
To share the depth of the loss is not possible now. Memories clamor for attention. Shock and sorrow mingle, and if in me, how much more in his lovely and now bereaved family.
I cannot understand why God would choose now to take him. And yet to know that it is God who took him provides a measure of comfort. His passing is not a random loss. Dave walked with God and then, inexplicably but certainly, God took him. God, who gave his own son. God, who raised Jesus from the dead. God, who loves with an everlasting love. God took him. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Of course, God knew full well what he was getting in taking Dave. If you knew and loved Dave, simply replace the name ‘Mitch’ with ‘Dave’ below and smile with me. We’ll miss him.