The summer days rolled by, one after another, in almost monotonous sequence. Grass no longer glistened with the morning dew but rather crunched underfoot, baking into a golden crisp that stretched across landscapes for acres. Only the very fastidious, who watered their lawns religiously, enjoyed the verdant carpet of green earth that was usually so typical to a Midwestern summer.
Hot air, bursting with humidity, greeted every morning and lasted the day through, raking rivulets of perspiration down the faces of any who dared leave their air conditioned houses to engage in more strenuous outdoor activity.
But on one such morning in mid-July, the humdrum regularity stopped. The entire world seemed to stand still. Moments froze in time as I heard words that would resound through my ears the rest of that day: Austen was dead. Austen’s soul had met eternity. Austen was gone from this earth forever.
I first learned of this teenager from my sister, who had knocked on his door and given Austen the Gospel about four years ago. At fourteen, he didn’t quite understand everything but was interested. I met this quiet, shy boy when he visited church a few weeks later. Would he like to study the Bible? My husband asked him that day. “Sure,” he said, cocking his head to one side as he brushed his light brown bangs away from his eyes. And so it was that after church each week Austen would meet to study the things of God and eternity from the pages of Scripture.
One blustery day in mid-September, he learned of his need to repent of his sins and turn to Christ. Austen told us that, while out on the picnic table at church, he had looked to Christ in faith to save him from his sin. For months, Austen sat with us at church, bringing his Bible, and learning the ways of God. He began reading it, attended a teen campout with our church youth group, and made some significant spiritual decisions. When he turned 16, we invited him and several of the young men from church to our house for a birthday party. I remember that day well…
Austen was famished when we arrived at our small apartment. As soon as the appetizer of apples and dip appeared, he hungrily ate, almost as if he hadn’t touched food in days. When our spaghetti dinner was ready, he enjoyed that, too—several helpings of it. Later, Austen sat at the end of the blue couch in our living room opening the gifts we had selected for him. He smiled, characteristically quiet, but satisfied. We entered the kitchen to enjoy the chocolate caramel bars for dessert and then, as suddenly as they arrived, the boys left. Quiet.
We didn’t see much of Austen during his junior and senior years of high school, but after being visited just two weeks ago by my dad and the intern from our church, he promised to be in church with his mom. Then, Tuesday, a dreadful thing happened. Austen was in an accident.
I saw Austen’s body for the last time today. His sister was mourning; his father, stunned; his mother carrying with her a sense of peace, as if her soul rested in faith. I met Austen’s cousin today, who said Austen had “talked a lot” about the things of God.
I wish Austen’s end could have been different. I wish he had made consistent choices to live for God. I wish he had completely surrendered to God’s will. But I am thankful that God allowed my family to be vessels through which He could touch Austen’s life with the most important truth of all: the Gospel.
Truly the good news is the “power of God unto salvation to every one who believes.” How very precious is this Gospel message: although I am a sinner, I can be made clean by the blood of Christ who died for my sins and rose again! May I never cease to wonder at its precious truth! May I never stop declaring its power!
We’re living in the dash: that tiny hyphen between the day of our birth and that of our death. Who knew that Austen would die just a few short years after hearing the message of salvation? Only God. Who knew that Austen would need to be prepared for eternity? Only God. The appointed time is real. Eternity is forever. May I willingly be the vehicle through which God can spread the Gospel, His powerful message of eternal truth!