Friday, September 9, 2011

Can You Relate to Trey Pennington?

People arrive for the Candlelight Memorial
for Trey Pennington
I’ve been reflecting this week on why the death of Trey Pennington affected me so deeply.  We lived in the same city but had never met.  I only knew of him through the internet.  We weren’t Facebook friends and had never exchanged emails, but when I learned of his death, I felt a sense of loss.  That seems odd when there was no personal connection.

Trey was well-known around the world as an online radio personality, a blogger, a mentor, and a speaker.  I read this week that his Facebook and Twitter pages were ranked near the top in terms of influence.  He was an important figure to many people.  That was obvious at the candlelight memorial held at Falls Park on Wednesday evening.

This made me wonder who Trey’s influencers were.  Whose voices did he hear?  When it was time to make important decisions, what voice spoke loudest in his mind?  Last Sunday, as he faced the choice of life or death were his thoughts echoing with words of love and encouragement or derision and condemnation?  As he made his final choice, the choice to end his own life, only that last voice mattered.

Trey's cousin addresses the crowd gathered
in the park he loved
I think I’ve come to understand why I felt connected to Trey.  We had at least two things in common.  First of all, Trey loved Greenville.  Anyone who knows me knows that I think Greenville is the best city anywhere.  I love to eat, work, and play downtown.  I even hope one day to live downtown.  I love Falls Park, the river, the Liberty Bridge, the surrounding businesses, and the people who create the diverse culture that we enjoy here.

Second, at Trey’s memorial his friend, Jay Handler, made a statement that I could identify with.  He said that Trey had a hole in his heart that none of his friends could fill.  Can I ever relate to that!  I spent many years trying to fill that big hole in my own heart.  I tried to fill it with relationships, with busyness, with pornography, with church, and with anything else that I thought would silence the voices that called me worthless.

For the past dozen years or so, I have been free of those voices, and the great void has been filled.  It’s not a religious solution.  I had been in church my entire life, and church never filled that emptiness.  The solution was found in scripture though.  In John 8, Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”  When I learned the truth about who God is, who I am, and how God sees me, I was able to have healthy relationships, healthy thoughts, and could reject the lies that were hurled at me from people of little character or lies that I had internalized.  Now, it’s my goal to communicate the liberating truth to other people who are listening to opposing voices.

At the same time Trey chose to end the conflict of his heart, I was one block away speaking to a small group of people about their worth.  Here are some thoughts I shared with them:

  • God created you with a purpose.
  • God created you to love you.
  • Do you know why God chooses to use imperfect people?  Because that’s the only kind there are.
  • Life is like a jigsaw puzzle: none of the pieces look like much by themselves.  A circumstance that you experience may not seem to fit your life, but according to Romans 8:28, God is causing all things to work together for your good.  It may be that you will never understand that until the last piece is in place.
  • We tend to look at our failures and think we are too messed up to have any value.  Like those lucky people on Antiques Road Show with their $5 yard sale item who find out its worth is actually thousands of dollars, we see ourselves at the yard sale price.  The truth is that you were created with value and no circumstance of life can devalue you.  Your worth is determined by your Creator.
There are people all around me who live in moments of despair, people who lie awake at night in utter hopelessness.  If you’re one of them, please don’t pretend you’re ok when you’re around me.  You can be real.  I can handle it, and I want to help if I can.  I don’t assume the answers are easy or the same as mine, but I’m willing to walk through the hard times with you until you find the solution that works for you.  Whether I’m a block away or a continent away, call me.

Look around.  Who needs your help to fill the hole in their heart?

My other photos from 9/7/11 are in my Facebook album.

1 comment:

  1. Really good post pastor... keep up the good fight !!