Love is a choice. We choose who to give it to and who to receive it from, and those choices contribute to something incredible, something bigger than all of us. Love is how the world is being brought back to God.
The world isn’t changed by people who make the most staggering technological discoveries or political maneuvers.
The world is changed by people who love well.
So I want to write directly to someone who loved well, from one of the many who were well-loved by him.
It’s a strange thing to claim to speak for others like the title of this post does. I’m going to do my best, but at the end of the day, I was only one of the many, many kids that Brent McFarlin invested himself in. But what’s so astounding about Brent is that each relationship he did have was unique to the person he was with. It is so easy for people to hold one another at arm’s length, offer a cookie-cutter sort of love and example. But it’s quite another to care for people so deeply that you’ll take the time to talk with an individual to learn, and then act on, what it looks like to show them Jesus in a unique and resonant way.
Brent, you were that kind of person.
You and Mel created a house that is still one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever set foot in. You somehow tackled this impossible sort of legacy around high school life groups: that it was a rite of passage, but not exclusionary. None of us were ever farther from your heart for not quite being old enough to be in life group yet, nor were we nearer once we reached that age. But we did get the perks of Bagel Bites and enchilada casserole, and whatever else you could offer us. Because your form of hospitality was never about just bringing people into your home, but much more about what you could give, and give abundantly.
You did everything. You played football with those who were into that, you sat and made fun of bad American Idol auditions with those who were into that (and who isn’t into that?), and you showed us that having a conversation with an adult didn’t have to be a choice between being awkward or receiving a lecture, but could be organic, life-giving, and natural.
You sought us out. And I can’t tell you how much that means. You always kept an eye out for who was alone and approached them when you found them. You wouldn’t settle for “good” as an answer to “how’ve you been?” but you were never pushy to get details. You effortlessly became someone we wanted to share with. We were individuals to you, each unique and fascinating and worthy of your time and interest. You saw us as the church of the future and the church of the present. When you reached your hands out to us, we felt Christ’s hands reaching out to us.
You were a father. Not just to your daughters, but to all of us. Todd, Grant, and Trent most of all, that I saw, but so many others, too. You asked us what we did, how we spent our time, what we loved, who we loved, and you poured your own energy into all of those things. You asked us to share everything we wanted our lives to be with you so that you could do whatever was in your power to help us succeed in life. We watched you do this every time you were with your family as you encouraged Avery and Marlee to use their gifts and passions to the fullest of their ability and to the glory of God.
You and Mel showed us what a marriage looked like when the husband and wife were teammates, best friends, and chose love every day.
You were never concerned with making us think you were a certain kind of person, so long as we knew you were someone who loved Jesus and was trying his best to live into that. It’s easy to sit in a circle of high school guys and try to offer the sort of wisdom that will make them look at you like some beacon of knowledge and Christian living. But it’s hard to look those guys in the eye and tell them how you think you made Jesus proud that week, and how you struggled and failed to live with that sort of integrity as well. You were transparent about what Christianity looked like for you in the workplace and what was hard about it, what was rewarding about it. That’s what made us trust you, and that’s what made us understand that following Jesus wasn’t about being perfect or even trying to be, but just trying to love like Jesus did.
You reminded us that we are human by showing us that you were, too. And for all that, we were all loved by Christ.
You were a peaceful and comforting presence. There was never a reason for us to feel uncomfortable around you. If we wanted to run around and be active, or play Cliffs of Dover on Guitar Hero three times in a row, that was ok, and if we just wanted to sit around and do nothing for a while, well that was ok, too.
You didn’t take relationship lightly. Becoming friends with you, or having any sort of relationship with you, was reaching an understanding that you were now going to be invested in that other person in a way that many people simply aren’t used to. Your integrity and intentionality in the bonds you formed is unmatched.
I never heard you speak of a person whom you didn’t believe had good in them. Maybe that was a way of holding to a hope that even if you couldn’t see it, you could somehow, someday bring the good out of them. That was one of the things you did best. No one was worse off for knowing Brent McFarlin.
You knew you were blessed. You wanted nothing more than to share that blessing. We know because we were the recipients of the fruits of those blessings.
I have never known anyone to be so happy to empty themselves for the sake of others as you, Brent.
Language is difficult to get right in this sort of situation, especially verbs. We say a lot of things whether we mean them or not. Words like “lost” get mixed up with words like “taken” and phrases like “God needed you more” and “Heaven needed another angel” get mixed up with our need for you, and our desire to bring God into the midst of this because we just don’t get it. I don’t know what you’d say about all this. I’m not going to put words in your mouth. But I know a truth that you also knew.
Heaven and Earth are becoming one. That’s the whole point.
You lived your life trying to make that apparent to those around you.
We spend a lot of time worrying about how we’ll be remembered, and a lot of the time we don’t even realize it. But when you live as sincerely as Brent McFarlin did, you aren’t just remembered; you remain.
Brent, you remain with Mel. And with Avery. And Marlee. And all the kids who you loved so deeply as to dare to do life with them.
Thank you for raising us. Thank you for loving us.
We love you, too.