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Young Man Relies on Christ in Sickness

I've been around college students a long time, and you can't help but have your favorites. One of my favorites was a kid named Tim Vanderveen from Spring Lake, Michigan. Tall, broad shouldered, with curly hair and a smile as broad as the dawn, he was as handsome as they came. He was a great student. He graduated from Hope College in the early '90s and took a job at Prince Corporation, now Johnson Controls. He scurried up the ladder of success about as quickly as anyone can. That is, until a rawboned, wind-whipped November afternoon.

I was sitting in my office, and my secretary told me Tim Vanderveen was on the line. He's a friend, so I was eager to talk to him. I said, "Hey, Tim, how you doing?"

A weak, trembling voice said, "I'm not doing so good."

I said, "What's up with you?"

He said, "I'm in the hospital in Grand Rapids. I got the flu or something. My folks are out of the country."

I said, "I'm going to be in Grand Rapids later today. Maybe I can stop by and see you. Would that be okay?"

He said, "I'd like that a lot."

By the time I got to Tim, the doctors had already gotten to him. It wasn't the flu. It was leukemia. And that began a three-year, arduous battle that he would lose —or win, maybe.

Now come with me to Room 5255, Butterworth Hospital. They call it Spectrum Health now. I walked into the room. His mother was sitting in the corner crying. You can't blame her. Tim was lying on his side. They had positioned the pillows between his skinny little legs. His hair wasn't curly anymore. There wasn't enough energy for him to look at me, so I got down on one knee so I could look at him eyeball to eyeball. I said, "Hi, Tim." He said, "Hi, Tim." There was this long, awkward pause. I'd been a pastor for 20 years, and I still didn't know what to say. He broke the silence.

He said, "I've learned something."

Now I know this much at least: you don't trifle with the words of a person who is about to die; you just listen carefully. So I said, "Tell me, partner, what have you learned?"

He said, "I have learned that life is not like a VCR."

Now, I didn't get it then any more than you're getting it now. So I said, "I don't get it. What do you mean?"

He said, "It's not like a VCR; you can't fast forward the bad parts." Long pause. I'm thinking to myself, Where does he get this stuff? Then he interrupts the silence again to say, "But I have learned that Jesus Christ is in every frame, and right now that's just enough."

It was just enough when his parents rocked that little baby at the waters of baptism that Jesus Christ should be in the frame. It was just enough when he toddled off to first grade that Jesus Christ should be in the frame. It was just enough when he turned his tassel toward an uncertain future at Hope College that Jesus Christ should be in that frame. And it was just enough when he breathed his last here and his first there that Jesus Christ should be in the frame.

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