I’ve known Joe for the last eight years. In that time, he has become one of my closest friends—someone I can always go to for support. I know this because, despite his pacifist nature, every once in a while he will turn to me and say, “Frank, I would punch people for you. Really, just pick someone out, I will punch them.” His boxer side really comes out. But more importantly, Joe is someone I can go to for advice because he is one of the people I respect the most and he has the honesty and integrity to tell me when I am being stupid.
When I first met him, it was freshman year of college and people were just getting to know each other. We went out to eat in a big group; I think there were ten of us eating together at a Chinese restaurant. Someone made a crack that another person must have been starving because his plate didn’t even have a single grain of rice left. The “starving” guy responded that his mom used to always tell him that if he ate everything on his plate, including every grain of rice, then his future wife would be beautiful. A hush fell across our table and all the guys got suddenly very focused on their food. Well, everyone except Joe. Eventually, someone noticed and warned him, “Joe, you better eat all your rice if you want your future wife to be beautiful.” Joe responded, “I don’t care if my wife is beautiful on the outside, as long as she is Godly, she will be beautiful to me and beautiful inside.” A crescendo of oh’s was heard throughout the restaurant; I think three girls fainted.
And I thought: wow, this guy is full of crap.
There was no way this 18 year old, with his floppy mop hair, highlighted blond bangs, 3-day old baggy t-shirt, jeans with the frayed bottom and holes, and perpetual skateboard was that mature.
In fact, when I first met Joe, I had always thought he was super reckless—never really thinking much about consequences. For example, in college, none of us ever had a lot of money but Joe would always give money or buy food for the homeless who asked him for help. I thought, that’s great dude, but what are you going to eat? Or what’s worse was his habit of lending the little money he had to other people even though he would end up in a worse position than they were in. I used to worry that the guy just didn’t know how to manage his money; he really shouldn’t be giving it away when he didn’t know where it was coming in. I also thought he was reckless because he spent so little time on schoolwork. Out of any given week, I would see him crack a book maybe two days. One year, he missed the first week of classes because he wasn’t sure when school started.
I used to also think that he was just the luckiest person. Despite never worrying about a thing and being reckless, things just kind of worked out for him. He always had just enough money to get by and got through school just fine, even getting into grad school.
But then I realized it had nothing to do with luck. I remember trying to convince him not to be so careless about his money and I asked him why he would give it away when he needed it too. Joe said to me, “The money is not mine, the money is God’s and it doesn’t belong to me anyway. Besides, God will provide.” I realized that things turning out for Joe really never had to do with luck, or being reckless. He chose to put his faith in God, rely on Him, and not let worldly worries stop him. Why did he only study two days a week? In the other five, he was leading small group, leading worship at AAIV as a praise band leader, serving as a youth group pastor-spending every Friday and Saturday with his kids and all day Sunday-at his home church. In the end, he got through college fine and went on to graduate seminary. And all the time he missed from school? He was out on church retreats or missions. In fact, it was at one of those missions that he started getting to know Grace by serving with her.
Looking at Joe, he again looks like the luckiest guy in the world. He is able to finally start the only career that I have ever heard him say he wanted to have and he has a wife who is not only beautiful inside and out but is truly a woman of God. But, it has nothing to do with luck; it’s because Joe has always lived his life basing it on the Word of Christ, letting Him be his goal, and relying on Him to provide.
Joe and Grace will always be an inspiration to me. And yes, I would punch people for them too.
I propose a digital toast to the future Joe and Grace have ahead of them as they walk side by side in their journey with God and a toast to the bright future we can all expect as we anticipate Joe and Grace doing His good works.