Friday, April 22, 2011

Scar-filled Moments--Josh Ross

Josh and Kayci Ross and their handsome boys, Truitt and Noah

Josh, Luke Norsworthy and me

Josh Ross, Josh Graves and I always loved getting together after the ZOE Conference for chill time.

I've been sitting here searching for the right words to say to introduce you to Josh. Many of you need no introduction because you know he's been like a brother to me for many years...and you know his story. For those of you who are just meeting Josh today, let me encourage you to grab a tissue (maybe a box) and engage with him as he shares his story. Josh has a servant's heart. He's one of the more sought after ministers and speakers because he's so real. God has given him this gift of opening his heart to people and the Spirit has used that literally hundreds of times in my life. Even back when Josh was at ACU and I was already in Nashville, he would go to my mom's house to stack firewood, change light bulbs, visit, mow the grass...whatever she needed. He served my family. Then as years passed, that brotherhood only deepened which made it almost unbearable to watch his family have to walk through the difficulties of last year.

Today on Good Friday as we remember what Jesus suffered and the confusion and doubt that overwhelmed his followers, it is good that we stop and examine our own doubt...our own scars...and ask some of these same questions. Josh--I love you, my brother. You are a shining light because you so readily allow Him to use you, even in scar-filled moments.

My name is Josh Ross. I’m a preacher, but more importantly, I’m a follower of Jesus. Let me begin with a confession: one of my greatest fears in life is to be a living contradiction. It’s the fear of not living a life that aligns itself with the radical Jesus I preach about on Sunday mornings. It’s a fear of modeling good citizenship for my two boys while failing to model faithful risk-taking.

I was with a mentor recently who cried when he told several other young ministers that he used to go into a depression every Sunday night because the sermons he preached about the radical nature of Jesus on Sunday mornings didn’t line up with the life he was living the rest of the week.

Taking Jesus seriously is bound to bring physical, emotional, and social scars. And do we believe that God enters into the scars of life?

Maybe to redeem the scars.

Maybe just to be present in the scar-filled moments.

I’m the middle child in my family. Jonathan is the youngest. Jenny is your quintessential protective oldest child. I can remember times when she was babysitting us and she would hear a train outside and immediately she’d force us into a hallway where we would sit under a mattress because she had seen a television show that depicted tornadoes as sounding like trains. The only problem was that it was a clear, sunny day outside.

Jenny and her husband David.
I received a text from Jenny on February 3, 2010 that her fever had spiked to 105. It wasn’t too uncommon for a Ross. We don’t get sick much, but when we run fever, we go all out. My concern for Jenny on that day was that she had been sick over 5 days. Immediately, I fell on my knees in my office and prayed for God’s hand of mercy to touch Jenny’s body. I received a text within the hour that her fever had broken. We thought this was good news. Actually, the fever broke because a disease had conquered her body.

The next morning I received a phone call from my mom that Jenny was in ICU. She had gone to a medical clinic early in the morning and after checking her blood pressure, they told her to go to the ER immediately. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200.

Three days prior to her walk into the ER, she had gone to a clinic and they diagnosed her with the flu. It was the wrong diagnosis. She had been suffering from strep throat. The sickness entered into her blood stream and by the time she reached the ER her body was in a full-blown battle with septic shock.

I was on a plane the next morning to the DFW area where I was expecting to walk into a hospital and to be back in Memphis the next night just in time to preach at Sycamore View the next morning. Call me na├»ve if you’d like, but I thought that if you didn’t die from a car wreck, bizarre tragedy, cancer or heart attack, that scientific research and medical advancements would cure everything else.

I arrived as anesthetics were putting Jenny into a deep sleep and within a few hours the doctor met with my family in a hallway and spoke the words, “There’s a 50/50 chance.”

Our world began to crumble.

There were over 10,000 people praying around the clock for Jenny’s healing. We were knocking down the doors of heaven for God to speak the word over her sick body. We were clinging to any hope we could find. After all, healing just seemed right. Why should a husband lose his wife? Why should a 9-year-old daughter live the rest of her life without her mom?

The struggle lasted 18 days. We were told that there was a 1 in 500,000 chance that sepsis would go to her brain. On February 22, 2010, we received the news that it had happened. The family was called in to say goodbye. As Jenny breathed her last breath, a doctor sang the song “It is Well” over her body.

I found myself asking questions like:

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus when you don’t get your way?
What is the purpose of prayer?
What good is God?

Maybe you were raised to believe that you could never question God’s activity in the world and you could never doubt his existence or he might just zap you with a lightning bolt. Maybe you think that the barrage of questions God deals Job towards the end of that bizarre book trumps every other moment of questioning and feeling of anger found in Scripture. In a context influenced so heavily by the Enlightened period which emphasized knowledge and intellect, the desperate need to believe with assurance has suffocated the potential gift of asking hard questions.

February of 2010 would leave me scarred. The scars would force me to ask questions. And I leaned into the sovereignty and grace of God believing that Jesus could carry me through a season of uncertainty. And somehow, God entered into my grief. He took my questions and doubts and rooted me in the story of the resurrection…a story that declares that we win.

I’ve discovered that deep faith is scarred faith.

Last September I stood at Jenny’s grave reading 1 Corinthians 15. It was a holy moment as God spoke the promise of the resurrection into my heart again. The good news for me is that God knows how to bring dead things to life. Jesus can resurrect death from septic shock, cities scarred by racial tension, and a world that in many ways has gone berserk.

And so we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”

Josh, Luke and me

The Ross, and Norsworthy families eating at our house (I think Sheryl is taking the picture)
Josh and Kayci live in Memphis where he is the minister of the Sycamore View Church. Check out their website here . Josh has a heart for the inner city. As he ministers at Sycamore View, He and Kayci are also making a move into the inner city to become an active part of that community and share their lives every day with those around them. You can find Josh on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @joshualouisross.


Lauren said...

This was lovely, Brandon. Josh holds a very, very treasured place in my heart. He and Jonathan Storment consistently battle for my number one favorite preacher. There are MANY things that I deeply respect about Josh, but, I think my very favorite things are his humble authenticity and his fervent pursuit of God's Presence and going hard after what stirs God's heart. The Kingdom is made richer and stronger because of Josh and Kayci Ross!
Lauren Cunningham

Karen Johns said...

Thanks for posting! I have had the privilege to be blessed to sit under Josh's teaching as he ministered to us at Ave B Church of Christ in Ballinger. I'm so thankful for the time that we had to get to know him and Kayci! Praying for them as they continue to serve Christ while sharing in His scars. Josh and Kayci exemplify Christ through their lives. This verse comes to mind: "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:16-18

Love you Ross'!

Karen Johns

john dobbs said...

Thanks for sharing this. I can relate, given my own losses.

Kenneth said...

Thank you Josh! I continue to pray for you and Kayci and boys daily. Your heart is so true to what you are preaching in the Memphis area.

i miss you all! But more than anything I miss hearing you preach. Ya'll should come here to Louisville and start a new church.

Love to you all,