r W a: A Tribute to the Life of Miss Raven White

If you are following the website and the 2 Peter 1 devotional series, you’ll discover that today’s post is a bit of a repeat- it is the sample post we used to help preview the GodNow website. That being the case, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post something a little different for our regular readers who follow this site, so they have something to read while the 2 Peter 1 audience catches up…

This post is something that is dear to my heart, about someone who is dear to my heart…

This past August a student popular in our student ministry moved on to dance with Jesus in heaven when she was only sixteen years old. I got to read this at the funeral service in her honor. What a privilege it was to get to tell this story about her, and how God used her life to point people to Himself. 

I didn’t know the story God was telling while He was telling it. We never do. The dots only connect in the rear view. What a beautiful story God told with this sweet girl’s life. What an amazing miracle He caused by using that life to bring new life to so many.

 

Miss Raven, I will never forget you. Excited to be seeing you again one day.

-Tommy

 

____________________

Last fall, I woke up one morning with one thing on my mind.

I am a Student Pastor. And as such, I woke up feeling this was imperative- we needed to have a special retreat targeted specifically for our high school girls.

I didn’t know why it felt so urgent, but something in me knew that it had to be done. It wouldn’t let go of me.

So I called and texted several of my leaders, early that morning, before the sun came up. I’m an early riser and I’m notorious for the before dawn 5am text. And I insisted that this had to happen and it had to happen soon.

I remember not sharing this information with our leaders who went on the retreat, not with the students or with their parents either, but in reality, the truth is that that retreat was a little difficult to pull off.

It was last minute by our standards, and some of the students seemed a bit reluctant to go. I can’t explain the urgency I felt though of making it happen. All I knew was that it woke me up one morning, so I did what I was told.

Oswald Chambers is the author of what has been called the most popular Christian devotional classic “My Utmost for His Highest.” First published in 1924, it has remained continually in print ever since. It is considered to be one of the most popular religious books ever written, inspiring scores of people from athletes to presidents. It has been translated into 39 different languages and includes devotions for every day of the year. Though he is credited as its author, the book would have never happened had Oswald not died tragically young. His wife, a courtroom stenographer, took notes on everything he said, and compiled those notes into a book for publication after his passing.

Here’s my favorite excerpt, in which Chambers describes the call of God as meaning following Him, even when we can’t see how the chapter we’re in makes sense:

“Only on looking back over our lives do we realize what God has been doing all along, for God sanctifies memory. It all becomes clear, so that looking back we can say with a chuckle of confidence, “He doeth all things well.” Before us there is nothing, but overhead there is God, and we have to trust Him.”

I love this. It is the idea that it is impossible for us to connect the dots of our lives looking forward. But it becomes very, very clear looking backwards.

I don’t know why God allows tragedy. And no one that I know knows why either.

I do know that God is keenly and closely connected to the brokenhearted, and that His involvement in our lives is often obvious when we look back. The trick is believing He is involved right now.

As I look back over that weekend, and the urgency I inexplicably felt in it, a certain beautiful young lady, soft-spoken, polite, sweet, and kind, signed up immediately.

This week, as I looked back over our texts from the past year, she actually texted me, begging for there to be more room.

That’s the kind of person she was. Always kind. Always grateful.

She’s with Jesus now.

One of the ladies who helped with the retreat, who went and who helped teach and who lived her life into the lives of these precious young ladies, sent me this message Wednesday morning:

“I have pictures from the weekend retreat that I spent with the girls last fall. For a time, I prayed daily for all of them. I didn’t know Raven a long time, but certainly feel connected to her and the girls from that weekend.”

Given the fact of us all being here today, the urgency of the retreat, and Raven’s participation in it and in our Student Ministry, I feel so confident and see so clearly how God connected those dots for us. I feel so confident that she is worshiping at the feet of her savior, right now.

I know there are a lot of people who will cherish that time they had with Raven.

There are a lot of things we don’t know.

I don’t know why God allows hurt. Or pain. Or loss.

I know that He paints pictures with our lives though, if we let Him.

And I can’t imagine a more beautiful person whose life could be used for a more beautiful picture.

Last fall, after the retreat, there was this story that made the rounds in our Student Ministry. Sort of like a rumor or gossip, only it was a good story.

We had been focusing a lot of energy on our high school ministry, of communicating to the students how saying yes to Jesus meant saying no to other things, that He’s called us to stand out, and how one day we will cross the finish line and stand before Him.

That the point of our brief lives is to point to Him.

That this life is indeed brief. James calls it a mist. Vapor. Here one second, and gone the next.

We need to be ever-focused upon the Finish Line, and not on the distractions that come along with popularity and temptation here.

This story went around, of Raven, somewhere, hanging out. Being social. Innocent and sweet and fun. And at some point, somehow, someone brought something and added it into the hangout that made it a little more complicated, a little less innocent and fun.

Rather than stay, the story went, she felt compelled to take a stand. She felt compelled to risk her popularity and reputation to instead stand up for His. And so quietly, but poetically, she left. Rather than be called a hypocrite, she took a stand to be identified with Christ.

And this story, it bounced around the channels before landing somehow on me. It was a Wednesday, and so I called her.

“Are you coming to Youth tonight?” I asked.

“I’m on my way right now” she laughed.

“Good,” I said. “Because I heard this story about you.”

She froze. Paralyzed. “Uh oh,” she said.

“Oh, no. It’s good. I wanted to ask you about it though.” So I told her what I had heard. And she confirmed that it was true.

She said “I just don’t like what a lot of us are living our lives for. I want people to see Jesus through me.”

So I said, “Raven, I know this is a big thing to ask, but would you be willing to share that story tonight?”

She froze again. Soft spoken and mild, I knew she’d be uncomfortable to be in front of people.

So I went on: “A lot of people may be inspired through you. You’re popular and beautiful, and so there are different temptations that come along with that. It can be so powerful and inspiring to hear stories of people withstanding those snares to instead point people to Jesus. You could impact Eternity with your life!”

She told me that she wanted to share, but she didn’t think she could do it that night. She needed some time. But she loved the idea of pointing people to Jesus, she was just nervous about the speaking part.

I went through my phone earlier this week, reading. She texted me this later, after we had gotten off the phone:

“I would love to share and it really makes me feel special and I appreciate you want me to do that, but I get really nervous in front of people, even that I know, and I’m not so comfortable yet… please don’t be upset with me…”

I responded I could never be upset with her, that I totally understood. Then I told her that I was proud of her.

Raven never did get up in front of everyone and share. Not with her words anyway. For all of us who knew her, we will be forever tethered to the other side, on account of her life. Her life has made a greater impact than any words she could have said last fall. Her life tells the story of Christ.

Two days before she crossed sides, from one world to the other, she tweeted this:

“Sometimes it’s hard but sooner or later you realize God does all these things for a reason.”

And Raven, you’re right-

It is hard. It is hard to choose to believe. To choose to trust.

But we’re choosing to.

We’re choosing to trust you Raven.

So good job Sweet Girl. You did it. We’ll never forget. We’ll be forever tethered to Eternity through you.

We who are left here, we search for order. We look for answers in all this chaos. We want there to be a reason and we want to know what it is, and we can be tricked into thinking that answers and order and reasons can be found if we just look hard enough.

I’ve spent every night this past week staring at a popcorn ceiling. As I’m sure, so have many of you. And with tears streaming down my face, my soul on fire with anger and my stomach sick from loss,

I cannot help but realize:

Answers aren’t what we need. The idea of answers is a trick. A red herring. There are no answers. There are no words.

What we need is Hope.

Raven walked out of this world and into the next. Here upon her salvation her heart was replaced with a new heart, a heart that kept her tethered to Him from one world to the other.

There her heart needs no tether.

She is in a place where she doesn’t need a tether because she is already present living inside a place that is His heart.

She moved homes. Changed houses.

Here she lived in a home with a heart connected to His. There she lives in a home that is Him.

There is a word in Greek for this.

Meno. To abide, in reference to time, place, and condition.

In reference to place,
-to sojourn, tarry.
-not to depart.
-to continue to be present.
-to be held, kept, continually.

In reference to time,
-to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure.

In reference to state or condition,
-to wait.

Here we sojourn in reference to place.

We wait in reference to time.

There we are held, kept, continually.

His Spirit, the writers say, alive in us, keeps us connected between the two homes. Tethered.

And now so does Raven. Because we look forward to seeing her. We anxiously await it. We eagerly look forward to it.

Where she is, she is safe in the arms of her Father. Experiencing the fullness and the brightness and the bliss of His affection, in her eternal home, with Him forever, where there is neither pain or sorrow or tears or suffering,

Forever and ever more, hallelujah.

Here, we walk this road without her. But we rejoice in where she is. She’s not missing anything back here. We’re missing her.

We were robbed. But she has been rewarded.

I never really knew what Lilly Pullitzer was before this week.

I knew it was bright and that Raven liked bright clothes. But after seeing how bright, and understanding what Lilly Pullitzer is, and even watching as they released a new print in honor of her,

All that brightness.

It’s pretty symbolic of who Raven was.

There’s one quotation that reminds me of Raven, reminds me of her brightness, in the wake of this loss, in which the writer says:

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone… I guess I just miss my friend.”

Raven, we miss you. We love you. But we know we’ll see you again. And until that day, our lives are forever changed because of yours.

The last text I got from Raven says this:

“You really have made an impact on my life in just the short period I have been there and I appreciate it. I just thought I would let you know.”

I know she meant the short time that she was in our student ministry. But as I was searching my phone in the wake of her absence here, given the tragedy of losing her so early, it’s like she’s speaking from Eternity, looking back on Time.

I think she is.

I think maybe she is.

And so I say it back:

“You really have made an impact on my life in just the short period you have been here and I appreciate it. I just thought I would let you know.”

Congratulations sweet girl. You did it. You spoke. In front of more people than you could have ever realized. Impacting countless more scores than you could have ever imagined. You painted a picture with your life.

A beautiful, bright picture.

Your life pointed to Him.

And we’re forever grateful.

4 Comments
  • Joi Lanier-Thomas
    Posted at 09:44h, 13 September Reply

    This is beautiful and having your view of our sweet girl makes her even sweeter.
    Thank you!

    • lantis ravendawn
      Posted at 06:48h, 07 August Reply

      Thank u

  • Maria l Hyatt
    Posted at 12:03h, 13 September Reply

    This is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever read. My son Jake was very close to raven and a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t talk about how much he misses her. I wish I had been able to know her better.

  • Pandora Hinson
    Posted at 15:20h, 16 October Reply

    God bless you God already has blessed Raven

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