Like many in the Christian community, I was devastated to hear of the passing of TobyMac’s eldest son, Truett, on October 23rd this past year. I hesitate to use the word devastated, but that indeed is how I felt for his family that day. He was 21 years old, same as my own boy, and I could empathize on that rare gut level, that place we connect as parents.
Long time fans of TobyMac, I recalled my two grown children as wee ones, dancing in the minivan to Toby’s latest album, always eager to hear the track featuring his then young son, ‘TruDog’. Indeed, his music seemed to be an ever present background back then, life’s soundtrack through those years when my children were small.
When the news reported his death to be of a cardiac arrest, my heart felt heavier still. Twenty-one year old men don’t generally die of heart attacks without a bit of help; it appeared likely the McKeehan family had been going through some stuff. This week, the news confirmed that young Truett McKeehan died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl and amphetamines.
As I scrolled through Toby’s social media pages I was struck by the comments. I had noted this before, first on the day his son died, then when he released a song about it earlier this month, that the thousands of comments were filled with people sending words of love and encouragement. Prayers were being lifted and folks shared their own stories of loss and of God’s mighty peace and strength through unimaginable storms. It has brought me to tears more than once; this displayed unity of heart and purpose in the face of crushing grief is staggering.
I’ve pondered it this morning and one thing keeps coming to mind. Why do we not seem to extend the same love and grace to those in our immediate sphere when the storms of life hit?
Oh, we do fine when tragedy strikes righteous folks through no ‘fault’ of their own, but what about when marriages implode? There’s always blame to throw around in that case, right? How do we react when that family three pews over has a teen that goes off the rails? Do we scooch our kiddos away so they aren’t accidentally tainted by their rebellion? Or how about when the pastor steps down after admitting to some moral failure? How do we treat the brother or sister who is exposed as an addict, an adulterer…pick your sin or moral face-plant, we all have spent time critiquing the tragedies of our brethren.
The longstanding joke in the church is that Christians eat their own. It’s sad, but too often true. Like armchair quarterbacks, we engage in the outsider’s commentary, gravely shaking our heads and thinking (or saying!) things like, What a shame…I always knew…If only they had done this…That’s what happens when you do that…etc. etc. All the while, secure in our belief that in the offender’s circumstances we would have done better. What a crock!
Let’s be clear. Spiritual cannibalism feeds nothing but one’s pride while laying waste to the body of Christ. Like spiritual junk food of the worst sort, it’s toxic and if left unchecked, will cripple our witness, our walk, and lead to the death of fellowship. It is the antithesis of everything Jesus teaches us!
My intent here is not to go off on how awful Christians are. By and large we’re pretty decent folks, all fallen people just mucking along, doing our best to follow Jesus. But I’ve seen good people, going through the pain of destroyed marriages and prodigal children, being shamed and judged at the very time they need the family of Christ the most.
The McKeehan family’s tragedy and the resulting outpouring of love from the body of Christ remind me that it’s in the dark, painful places of life that the light can be seen most brightly, both to the person suffering, but also to an unbelieving world that so desperately needs to see Jesus in action.
I would wager none of us would be so crass as to condemn or shame a parent who has lost a child to such horrific circumstances. What would be the point? The should have’s and could have’s serve no purpose and we likely wouldn’t be adding anything to the table that the parents haven’t already agonized over. Pouring salt in a raw and gaping wound is not the way of our Savior. The same goes for those going through marriage issues, failed businesses, depression, wayward kids…you get the point.
May our compassion extend to all who are hurting and may we lift each other up, reflecting the love and mercy our Father shows us each and every day. Amen?
Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15, CSB)
Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. (Proverbs 12:18, GNT)
Grace and peace,
Photo by TeroVesalainen courtesy of Pixabay