I’m not a good friend to anyone. I have friends, people I value, respect, enjoy, and desire to be around more. But I’m terrible at follow through, and connecting with people when I do think deep down, they don’t want to be around me.
So I’m never the one to post on social media about how close I was with someone- because someone else is always infinitely closer. I’m an acquaintance for many, close friend to none. But that doesn’t invalidate the level of feelings I have for a person, or how much i like them.
My buddy Steve died the other day. Fell hundreds of feet on Mount Jefferson to his death. Rescue crews searched for days, but they couldn’t even find the body. They considered the mountain as his tombstone, as he’s unlikely to be recovered ever.
Everyone I know seems to be taking turns posting on facebook or insta about how amazing he was, how much he mattered. I don’t have anything new to say, and nothing I’ve got is special or more insightful than anyone else. But writing is how I process, and I want to make sure I take a moment to think of Steve, of his bride, and of yet another life cut short all too soon.
Steve and I worked together for a few years at Morning Star. He was the jack-of-all-trades guy who fixed anything, knew a bit about everything, and yet was still immensely humble, wise, and had a perfect mindset to serve his season. He had a boss who was passive aggressive to put it in the absolute most kind way. While I would have raged against the machine, tried to make it known how unhealthy the working dynamic was, and tried to make sure everyone knew how unworthy of the title and role his boss had, Steve and I would take frequently with him asking questions I didn’t even want to ask:
“How do I work with him, and still not become passive aggressive myself?”
“How can I inform him that the way he deals with people is unhealthy and unworthy of the title of pastor, but also while being kind and genuinely desiring that he would change, not just root for his downfall?”
I recall many conversations where the moral of the story would be Steve swallowing his pride or plans, to do what it took to make sure that the issue got solved, the problem went away. I think back to the movie the green mile- where the big guy soaks in other peoples problems, even when it isn’t healthy to himself, to take on the weight of the world for himself to avoid others having to carry the load. Steve was that guy (among others) for a season at our church.
He was an adventurer: kite sailing, youtube handyman, snow camping, rock climbing- the guy did anything outside that was adventurous, other than take up scuba on my repetitive and aggressive promptings. I recall though, many times, us chatting about how even though we liked different hobbies- we both wanted to soak the most out of life, to live intentionally, not just survive. That we ached for those moments when the thing you’re doing just makes you impulsively cry out “GOD YES!” “GOD WOW!” and we reveled in those things we did that drew automatic praise from ourselves.
We both lamented the current American church. The acceptance of idolatry. The love of money and stuff over time well spent. The complacent, comfortable, and antagonistic American church. While so many others inner monologue was filled with what they could get next or achieve next, Steve really did ask what he should experience next- genuinely more so than anyone I’ve ever met.
He would eat burritos for every day, every meal, like it was a given. Like if he just opted out of thinking of whats for dinner, there were so much more fun things to think about. So the man lived on burritos. I recall one time going to him and Kaitlyn’s house for dinner, and not being one iota surprised, when the only question was what KIND of burrito we’d make that night.
He was generous to a fault, and lived so much within his means that it meant a lifetime of travel and seeing the world, all before dying at only 33. Most people by that age haven’t done anything they’re proud of. Steve had done enough, seen enough, that even chronic travelers and adventurers looked to him as a role model.
I saw Steve a couple of weeks before he died. I was driving home- wrapped up in my own thoughts and insecurities, and problems. I saw him and his wife getting out of their car only like 10 houses down from us, clearly going to have dinner with friends. I thought about stopping, asking how he was doing, inviting them over for another night later- but I hadn’t had much contact since he left MStar, so I rolled by. I don’t think he even knew. But I beat myself up about it. Knowing full well I should have stopped, should have said hi. The guy didn’t die feeling unloved, and certainly I wouldn’t even be a weight on the scales of his mind in that. But even out of sight and not crossing paths for the last few years, he’s someone I think well of, highly of. And I drove by. Told myself maybe I’d shoot him a text later, call him later. I didn’t.
So I know Steve loved Jesus and hated evil. I know his faith wasn’t in the church leaders, clean rows of seats, or which building you went to on a Sunday. I know that he chased the moments that made you cry out to our creator, and revel in his creation. So I’m more comfortable than for a normal Sunday church attender in finding comfort knowing that I’ll see him again, and that we’ll catch up another day.
But for now, I’ll miss just knowing he’s out there. Chatting daily or not for years, it brought me joy knowing that people like him existed. The world will be far more bland without him in it.