A note from Kelly King: We often speak of influence in terms of older women. Yet, there are times when younger women mark our lives with their faith and passion for the Lord. In today’s article, Courtney Veasey shares how two younger women affected her life, even though their earthly lives have ended.
In recent time, two of my former students have passed away. The first, at age twenty-one, died suddenly from an illness while on a mission trip to Africa. The other, at age thirty-three, succumbed to a seven-year, off and on battle with cancer. As I consider their lives, both remarkable women, I wonder why they were taken from this earth and someone like myself is still here. Emily, the twenty-one-year-old, was making her way through college while serving as a youth director, and she often spoke of her heart for Kenya and the possibility of being a full-time missionary there after graduation. Rachel, the thirty-three-year-old, was full of passion, a teacher, and a wife who, just months before life-ending cancer returned, had also become the adoptive mother of small twins. Having already lived and so relished my twenties, I wish I could take Emily’s place that she too could have that experience and continue offering the world the zeal and energy that decade of life contains. And being single with no children, oh how I would gladly exchange my healthy body for Rachel’s that she could go on loving her husband and newly begotten children. And yet, in God’s great wisdom, the journeys of each have been set as they are, and those of us still living are charged with pressing on.
In Hebrews 11, we are reminded of many in our heritage who exampled great faith. In chapter twelve, the writer identifies these as making up “a great cloud of witnesses” that now “surround the arena,” so to say, as a presence of encouragement to those yet running the earthly race. Along with the noted biblical figures, each of us has had impactful people in our lives who, like Emily and Rachel, have since taken their places among that great cloud. For me, these have been relatives, friends, professors, and people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom, Christians I never met but whose stories and writings have made an indelible mark on my life. And lately, when I’ve experienced days when I’ve not much felt like pressing on or I’ve caught myself being lazy or tempted toward sin, the imagery of that great cloud has come to mind, and I picture these faces smiling at me, cheering, holding me accountable, nodding affirmatively that they believe I can go yet another leg in the race. I’ve even gone so far as to print out pictures of some and pin them up around a room I currently spend time writing in. They spur me on and remind me with every breath I’m allowed this side of heaven to run and run well.
Who have been the impactful people in your own life’s journey that now reside in the eternal cloud of witnesses? How might remembering their faces “in the crowd” stimulate your attitude and efforts for life and ministry today? Take a minute to be still and picture them in your mind. Do you see a mentor, a parent, or a grandparent there? What do they say to you? What encouragement do they give? Someday you and I will also take our place in that great cloud of witnesses. But until that day—until our last breath is spent—we run. Let us do so then, in honor of those whose earthly journeys are now complete and ever for the glory and renown of the great Author and Perfecter of our faith.
Courtney is a PhD candidate in biblical interpretation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the former Director of Women’s Academic Programs and faculty member also of NOBTS, and she has also served on a number of church staffs and in parachurch organizations including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life. Courtney currently resides in Florida where she loves spending time on the water and cheering for her beloved Florida State Seminoles.