Some friends may remember a blog I wrote two years ago about why we were doing something called “Cre8” instead of going to a “regular church.” I named several things I felt drawn to about Cre8, but it was awkward and messy, too. What it really boiled down to, the reason we were a part of Cre8 for 3 ½ years, is simple: We saw that Mike and Ami Shroyer were the real deal. Genuine, honest, Jesus-loving, people-serving, others-minded, selfless, world-changing, visionary leaders — although still human, too, of course. We didn’t exactly know how far we would go, but we decided to tag along for the ride. Fast forward …
December 2, 2015:
My family has now been traveling in an RV for 5 ½ months. We were just leaving a campground in Lubbock, Texas, following a wonderful Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. My phone rang, and I thought it was an odd time for this particular friend to be calling me because she is normally home-schooling her children in the morning. What I experienced in the next few moments and hours is mostly a blur. I remember gasping for breath, slamming my hand on the console, and beginning to sob while trying to yell “NO!!!” We had a 4-hour (or was it 5?) drive, but it could have been 2 hours or 10 hours for all I knew. The emotions, thoughts, texts, phone calls, and questions created something of a vortex around me.
To friends I texted these words: “He was righteous. He was the most selfless, giving, compassionate, loving, kind, good man I’ve ever known. I didn’t have him on a pedestal but honestly thought he was the closest to perfect that I’ve seen on earth. His biggest fault was giving too much and doing too much for others, but he said he did it for Jesus, and I believed him. If he had lived to be 100, he would have spent his days serving others and bringing many to Christ. There’s no way to make sense of this.”
When all family had been informed, Ami posted this on Facebook:
I’ll spend my lifetime rising to the occasion, and make the most of Michael Shroyer’s life of wonder, well-lived.
My texts to a friend and my Facebook statuses capture the thoughts and words I most want to convey in this first blog post about Mike’s death. I will be sensitive to Ami’s right to be the one to speak and write about the events and her thoughts and actions leading up to, surrounding, and following Mike’s death as well as her desire to share his written words, so I will mostly share only my own. I will just share two excerpts from e-mails he sent as well as a couple of his quotes.
Later that day, a friend posted words she had found in an e-mail that Mike had written a month before: “Never forget who helped you to rise! In a big way, we choose the things we remember most. We either trend toward remembering the good things or trend toward remembering the challenging times. There is always a bigger picture unfolding, and when we choose to dwell or be consumed with the things that keep us down, we often miss the biggest, most important moments of our lives. When we choose to remember those who helped us grow or rise, the bigger picture starts to become a little clearer.”
That prompted me to look back at some of Mike’s e-mails, too, but I could only manage to read a couple of them through sobs. In a recent one, I found these words: “Your actions will impact the faith of others! Your life is not just your own. In fact, your loved ones are more likely to adopt the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors you try to hide from them BEFORE they adopt just what you tell them they should do or be. When you’re willing to make an insane commitment to someone, like Ruth did, miraculous things happen … both in you and in the lives of others. So the question is – What impact do you want to have on others, especially your loved ones? Allow this to drive you each and every day.”
That evening, I posted these words as my Facebook status: “This has been one of the hardest days I can remember. I’ve been sad, angry, shocked, horrified, confused, defeated, depleted, and just plain a mess. I thought I had cried all the tears I could for our beloved friend and pastor and his family, but tonight during bedtime prayers I couldn’t hold it in when I realized we would never again be praying for Mike to be healed after praying that so many, many times a day for weeks and weeks. In my head I know God will be glorified, Mike’s words and legacy will live on and likely touch more people than ever they would have otherwise, and his wife and family will not just survive but rise and conquer. At the moment, though, my heart is done. I miss my friend and want to hug her and cry with her. It feels wrong not to be there. My head and eyes hurt, and as I fall asleep, I will be praying she and her young ones can somehow find rest, too. It’s ‘night,’ but it doesn’t feel ‘good.’”
Before bed, I texted: “I do believe that God gives and Satan takes. But God will still get the glory. I am thinking more clearly tonight and already have hope for how God will use Mike’s words and legacy to reach many more people now. I still don’t like it, but He didn’t need my opinion on the matter.”
The following day, my husband and I purchased airplane tickets to Greensboro. I wrote, “I don’t want to be there for myself, but there are so many people coming and being with her. … I’m a little nervous about how it will go when I arrive, if she won’t feel up to seeing me and if that will be awkward, etc. But it doesn’t truly matter. I will be at the funeral and will be available if needed the rest of the time we are there.”
“I’ve never seen two people love each other better. You know how you occasionally see an old couple, married 50+ years, who are still in love and tender toward each other? That’s how Mike and Ami were with each other. Their love was as close to complete or perfect as I think is possible on earth. They were ‘one’ more than most couples are …”
“This Mike did to the fullest: ‘Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. … I consider it right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, knowing that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has also shown me. And I will also make every effort that you may be able to recall these things at any time after my departure.’” 1 Peter 5:2-4, 2 Peter 6:13-15
A favorite memory:
There he is … Superman:
I purchased and began reading Mark Batterson’s book If on the journey and shared this quote: “The crucifixion spells the end of if only regrets. The resurrection spells the beginning of what if possibilities. And when this life ends, infinite what ifs await us.”
“Hello, Greenboro. I’m sorry I cried when I saw you again and wish I could be happier to see you. You sure do feel like home, though.”
The obituary: http://www.pierce-jeffersonfuneralservice.com/notices/Michael-Shroyer (Regarding the paragraph about honoring Mike’s memory, I said, “This is so Mike! How many times have we heard him say these things, Cre8ors? And ‘now that you know what God wants you to do, what are you going to do about it? Hopefully you’ll talk about that with your friends and family and other families this week.’”)
“I will always be grateful for today and the 4+ hours of laughing, crying, telling stories, looking at photos and videos, and just being together with my precious friend Ami, who is amazing and looks beautiful. She’s Superwoman; thank you for your prayers. So glad, and yet sad, to be here.”
“No one can think of the perfect words, the perfect photographs, the perfect video footage, the perfect songs, the perfect clothing to wear in two days while still in shock and disbelieving that the person you love is really gone and isn’t going to walk in the room and make everything better at any instant. Funeral preparation is anguish heaped upon unthinkable anguish.”
“Every morning, disbelief. I can’t believe I’m home on Sunday morning and not going to Cre8. I can’t believe I took my friend shopping yesterday for clothes to wear at her husband’s wake and funeral. I can’t believe she has to do what she has to do today. I can’t believe she is a widow. Mike said don’t put a period where God put a comma. We are trying …”
“God is so funny sometimes. I think I could be voted least likely to be a personal shopper or wardrobe assistant. Literally I believe my husband would be better at it than I am. But here I am. And I’m loving it because of whom it is for.”
Memorial/celebration service recording link: http://www.aboutthebridge.com/Media/MikeShroyer.php
Monday, December 7:
“Today is the first morning I haven’t wept, but other mornings I woke suddenly, remembered, and started crying. Today I woke very gradually. Very tiredly. And somberly – thoughts of how I need to live and how I was a hearer of Mike’s words but not a doer more often than not. The good news is that I’m in good company. I have heard many people say that or something similar this week.” Now that I read those words again, I think that “good news” is very sad. I wonder why it takes something drastic to wake us up so often.
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment (also translated, fear has its own punishment or torment). So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19
“I’ve been with Ami most of the afternoon and evening. Mentally done, spiritually full, and emotionally drained.”
Tuesday, December 8:
“Goodbye, Greensboro. I know tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, but I do hope to see you again … soon. Take care of each other, friends. If there’s anything I can do, now we know that I’m just a flight away.”
“I have looked back through the recaps and family lessons Mike e-mailed over the past 3.5 years. He had so much wisdom and so many quotable (or Tweetable?) quotes. Every week I could have just taken one sentence or phrase to live by, and at the end of a year I would have been a much more effective Christ follower and doer of the Word in 52 different ways. But I didn’t. I was too often a hearer and not a doer.”
“In all of her openness, Ami never expressed doubt. Her faith is so strong. She said she still trusts God and knows He can do the impossible because what other option is there to believe? It reminded me of Peter when he said, ‘To whom else would we go? You have the words of life.’ She expressed sadness, loss, fear of the future, questions … but also faith, hope, love, assurance, and praise. I can’t possibly process it all but am eternally grateful.”
“I asked (my 7-year-old son) what his favorite Mike memory is. He said it was ‘at Cre8 when Mike told us Ami was pregnant.’ He loved how happy Mike was. He thought I might find it strange ‘since Ami lost the baby,’ but I told him I love that this is his favorite memory.”
“(My 9-year-old) started crying on the phone and said Mike told him that when we go to Florida in February, maybe his family could come, too, and meet us there. It took a long time to get it all out between tears. But I was glad he did; he was suppressing it for days. Then he also said he thinks Mike’s life was ‘like a chain reaction,’ which is not a phrase I’ve heard him use before but perfectly explains why 1,000+ were trying to watch the service online (and probably 600 people were there live)! We cried on the phone together. I reminded him of the Jesus and heaven things. And I will be reminding him of many, many Mike words that we heard but didn’t live in the past 3.5 years.”
“Do not allow your current circumstance to define your identity; rise above it.” –Mike Shroyer
“12. This boy is TWELVE. He shared this just a few days before his dad passed away, while his mom and dad were fighting for life in the ICU. What an amazing young man. We can see all that his dad poured into him – the wisdom, love, truth. Mike’s every hope for his son shines brightly right here: https://vimeo.com/147269668”
My long Facebook status tonight:
Death is not the end! But it is HARD.
Jesus beat death! But sometimes it feels like death wins, even if temporarily.
To live is Christ, and to die is gain! But on earth, people experience loss in death.
God is eternal and timeless! But we are human, and much about us is finite.
Don’t put a period where God put a comma because after the comma is “then God.” Sometimes our response is, “Well then, God, now what?”
God is sovereign. He is also near to the broken-hearted and acquainted with grief.
Sometimes He raises the dead. Sometimes He wakes up thousands of people through one man’s death.
Sometimes He calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage on and calms His beloved who is living the storm.
Complete. Whole. Sanctified. Glorifying to Him. Advancing His kingdom. These are some of His goals and purposes for the lives of His children. He loves us too much to leave us unchanged, if we are willing to let Him mold us.
“Unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest.”
“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
I’m no theologian, but I think I’ve learned a few things in this excruciatingly enlightening, beautifully horrible week. (Week? Week!)
“’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I’m no Paul, but I’m feelin’ ya, bro.
The best way for me to wrap up is by mimicking something Ami did toward the end of her talk at the memorial service. She strung Mike’s yearly Cre8 ministry themes together, themes that his family lived out together, and showed us the beautiful progression. I hope I can live the rest of my life intentionally and with the kind of resolve, faith, and vision Mike had:
“We are doing a great work and cannot come down.”
“Living life where every ONE matters.”
“Follow all the way.”
“One of the most tangible ways that you can support Ami and her children during this time is by helping to offset the looming financial obligations that have been left in the wake of this painful circumstance. As you can imagine, the needs are great, and we are trusting that God will continue to be faithful to Ami, J. Michael & Sadie through the compassion of His people. If you’re able to support the Shroyer family, you may donate online here:” http://wideopenhome.org/support/