Earlier this week, I did what I always do on weekends I am not back home in Waterloo and able to attend Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls in person. I get on my computer and I watch the sermon online. I have done this for the past year and a half. I am proud to say that I have not missed a sermon during that time and have compiled a notebook of detailed notes. These notes have absolutely transformed my life. These words are the blueprint for how I should live my life. I admit, that I do not always do what is right, but having these notes is like having a roadmap so I don’t get off the path I want to follow in this journey called life.
This week was a very special one for me. It is when I first got exposed to the story of Eric and Heather Jacobs. It is one of the most remarkable stories I have ever heard. The more I learned, the more I cried, the more my heart was touched by the clear example of how God works through people to be a clear example for us all if we will just listen. Well, I was listening and I want to help spread this wonderous story to anyone I can so I have decided to write a blog about it so that you can hear the story and hopefully pass it on to others. I realize that one of the greatest legacy’s Eric can have is to spread his message in hopes that it will help others. I want to do my part to be that messenger.
This story is a pretty involved story and instead of trying to retell it in my own words, I would like you to hear the whole story from Reid Forgrave, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, who wrote an article (titled the same name as this blog) that told this whole story of these two remarkable people. The story ran on Dec. 10th, 2010. I have included the link to the article here. Please take the time to read this whole article before continuing on with the blog. Within this link is a video of the entire message Eric had left. It is nearly 40 min. in length (fairly long), but absolutely incredible. I encourage you all to watch this as well. If you absolutely do not have the time to read this whole article and watch this video, then skip to the three you tube videos below. They will give you the main idea of the story.
Here is three shorter video clips that are posted on You Tube that gives the main points of the story and includes an interview with Heather and several pictures. I encourage you to watch these short videos as well.
Wow! I know, right. What an unbelievable story. At the services at PLC this past weekend, Pastor Chris Rygh sat down with Heather and interviewed her in front of all three services. It was amazing. I have decided that I would highlight some of the comments that Eric made in the video and give you some thoughts I have regarding this amazing video.
Eric starts off by asking his brothers to move back to Des Moines to help Heather raising the kids. What an amazing appeal. How many brothers would be willing to do something like this? Eric’s brother, Ryan actually moved in with Heather and helped with raising the boys. This really shows how strong the love of a brother/brothers really can be. Eric also asks his parents to move closer to help Heather with raising the children. They do this and it just shows how strong a parents love can be for their children.
He was not afraid to approach subjects that were tough on this video either. He talks to Heather’s parents and tells them that they need to be better grandparents. That Heather and the kids will need them and they need to step up their game. This really shows great strength of character to be able to say what needed to be said even though it must have been really hard to say it. Sometimes love dictates that we tell people things they need to hear, but don’t want to hear. I am just amazed at how up front and to the point he is with them.
Eric then talks to Heather. He says “Ok Heather, this is tough, but I need to tell you that I don’t expect you and I don’t want you to be single. Raising these boys is way too tough. Your job-if you choose to accept it-no, you don’t get to choose, you have to accept this: I need you, I want you to remarry.” He says, “I’m not crying out of jealousy. I’m crying because I’m thinking of being gone from you.” This was so hard to say. He loved her with all his heart, but he knew that his children would need spiritual leadership in their lives and that he would not be able to provide that for them. They needed a dad, a good Christian dad, and he wanted them to have that and the only way was for Heather to remarry. It was so important to him that he repeated it many times over and over throughout the video. Can you imagine loving someone so much, that you would release them to be happy through someone else since you would no longer be there in person to love them? Absolutely amazing.
Eric then addresses his four sons. He tells the two oldest boys that they need to be the leaders of the family now since he would no longer be able to fill that role. He told his two younger sons that they needed to be there for their mom. Eric tells his sons, “You need to carry on what I was going to do. You need to win as many souls to the Lord before the Lord comes.” He tells them to “finish the ministry that he started.” Now when his boys are older, do you think they are going to treat these wishes their dad had for them pretty seriously? I think so. Sometimes, I think a lot of us take for granted having a loving, caring dad in our lives. I know I certainly have. It would be so hard not having one there for you. These boys have a dad who loves them so much and wants the very best for them and will not settle for less than their very best.
Eric instructs the family, “I need you to pray, and pray often. Don’t pray for me. I’m in a good place. I need you to pray for the people who don’t know about it. I need you to pray that they may come to know the Lord.” In the hour of his death, he is not concerned with himself. His focus is on others. Helping those who do not know what he knows. Those who do not have the peace that he has. The peace that only a loving relationship with God can provide. I pray that when it is my time to leave this earth that I can be as unselfish as Eric is. Eric knew that the only way to have an intimate relationship with God was to pray. Prayers are the conversations we have with God. Can you imagine having a friend that you never talked to? It would be pretty hard to maintain a friendship with someone if you never talked to them. Yet, we expect to have a relationship with God and hardly ever actually talk to him. God loves us more than anyone of this world ever could, yet we all too often shut him out of our lives. I think we all need to improve in this area.
Eric takes the time to address three of his co-workers that he had been trying to bring to know the Lord. He cared so much for them, that he took the time to try to finish what he had started. Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves. What a perfect example of that type of love.
Eric said, “I thought my life would be longer, but this is God’s will.” The truth is that most of us want to live long, full lives here on earth, but sometimes that is just not the plan. Are we willing to not question how long we have and just accept the days that we do and make the very most of them? Eric did this. I think we can all learn a lesson from how Eric approached this. I know that I have. We live in a society that stresses living for as long as we possibly can. Almost everything is geared at extending your life. I think we are really missing the mark here. I think our focus needs to be on living each day we are here to the very fullest. Don’t waste time. Don’t waste a single minute. Each moment we are given is a gift from God and we should treat it that way.
Eric instructs his family, “I don’t want you to hate God because I am gone.” So many of us have a tendency to be angry with God when someone dies or especially if they die before we think they should have. This anger can even lead to hatred. We do not see the whole picture and we want God to do what we think would be best rather than what God thinks is best. We are so selfish by nature it is really scary. Eric wants to make sure that his death does not cause a rift in his family’s relationship with God. He wants his family to put control of their lives into God’s hand and let him lead the direction of their lives. Guess what? God wants us to do that as well.
Eric says, “I want you to keep your humor.” Heather explained that Eric had a great sense of humor. This is a really great trait to have. Humor makes the world a better place. It is so great to laugh. Remember that since this life is a gift, we should enjoy our time here. Sometimes, when something devastating happens in our lives, we can lose our ability to laugh. We must be careful not to do this. Laughing makes it all worth-while.
Eric instructs his family, Whatever you do, be salt and light.” What does this mean? Well, salt is used today as it was in ancient times as a spice to enhance the flavor of foods. That means that in this life we are to be salt. We are to live a life that is full of flavor. In other words, we are to be full of life. In the ancient times before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meats so they would not spoil as quickly. I think we are to also preserve what is right in this world. We are to follow God’s commands and preserve what they stand for. When Eric talk about being a light, he means this. We live in a very dark world. A world filled with hate and sin. We are instructed by God to be different from that. Instead of being filled with hate, be filled with love. Be an example for all those you meet of what love should be. Be a light of the world.
“I want you to show this to people who don’t know the Lord yet, to witness to them.” Whether we realize it or not, Jesus commanded all of us to spend our lives reaching out to those who do not have a relationship with God. This is our life calling. God has called us to do this. Everyone of us. I think that we all are guilty of getting too caught up in our own agendas and trying to accomplish things we want to accomplish and lose sight of what we really should be focusing on. Yet, this unknown man, Eric, from central Iowa got it. He knew what his mission in life was. He was living out God’s will for him. In my eyes, that made him one of the most successful men on the planet.
“The Holy Spirit has prepared me to make this video. This is proof alone. There is a purpose for you all, God’s purpose. Whatever that is.” I am not a big believer in chance and circumstance. I believe that things happen for a reason. Things happen to fulfill a much greater plan than any of us have the scope to see or ability to comprehend. I believe God put that dream into Eric’s head so he would make that DVD. Eric could have chosen to ignore the dream and not made the DVD, but he didn’t. He was open to God’s calling. God had a purpose in that DVD being made. That DVD was greater than Eric’s life here on earth. We all need to just let go and let God have control of our lives and take us where he wills us to go. God’s way is the way of peace and love.
Eric ends by saying the Lord’s Prayer. A fitting end to a life well lived. He is saying goodbye to this world, but at the same time, his real life is just beginning. His eternal life in heaven. Eric’s very worst day in heaven will be exponentially better than his very best day on earth. He knows that and that is why he is smiling. He also knows it is hard to say goodbye to those he is leaving behind and that is why he is crying.
Pastor Rygh in his sermon made note of something very profound to me so I want to share it here with you. The life Eric lived and how the DVD was structured was very closely modeled after the way Jesus lived his life here on earth as a man and what he did in his last hours before his ultimate death on the cross. Jesus did 3 things before he left this earth:
- predicts his death
- instructs his followers
- prays for the people he leaves behind.
See some similarities? Eric’s video follows Jesus example to a tee. Eric had incredible clarity and flow during the video despite the high amount of emotions he was going through. The more I think about that video, the more I realize that God’s hand was involved in its creation. God was inspiring Eric. We sometimes think of miracles as not really happening. Well, this was a miracle and it happened in our backyard in our time. We need to all learn from it and let it make all of our lives better.
Life can be a very funny thing sometimes. I never had the honor of knowing Eric while he was alive. He grew up in Waterloo which is where I was from. I open enrolled so I could attend high school in Hudson. If I had not done that, I would have gone to Waterloo West. I would have gone to high school with Eric. He was at Iowa State at the same time I was and yet our paths never crossed that I am aware of.
Through his short life, Eric developed into this amazing man of God. His life should be an inspiration to us all. This was not just some guy you read about in the paper. He was one of our own. He was Iowa. He was us. I know that people, including myself, often question God when people die before what we feel should be their time. It seems so senseless! Why God?
Well, I don’t have a definite answer to that question. None of us do because only God knows why and only he sees the big picture. I do have a theory though. If Eric had not died, he could have lived a full life. He could have continued being a great dad and raised a whole family of godly people. He could have continued spreading the Good News to friends and probably would have saved many lives throughout his lifetime. On the other hand, his death and the inspiration to make the DVD has the potential to reach and save far more people than he ever could have alone.
Sometimes, I think we need a wake up call. I think we need reminders at how precious life really is and that we should live each day like it is our last. Sometimes the bible and the stories can seem so far away, in a different time and place to us, a time and place we can’t readily relate to. Maybe God was using Eric’s life and death to be a modern-day example of how we should live our lives. As servants. God already knew that Eric was saved and going to heaven. Maybe through Eric’s death God is trying to reach us. To save us. I can tell you this, Eric’s story will stay burned into my soul all the days of my life. I will share his story to as many people as I can during my time here on earth. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s all make a promise to each other to do the very most we can with each second we have. I know Eric did and that is his legacy. Eric, thanks for reminding me that my life is a gift from God and to not waste a second.