Last week I was honored as well as heartbroken to be asked to sing and speak at a Memorial Service for one of my former students, Natalie Anne Davis. Natalie was a member of our Student Ministry at Skelly Drive Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.
I remember the first time I met Natalie. She came as a guest to our Wednesday night student worship service. Most of the time when I see a new face in the group, I walk up and introduce myself and ask them their name. Well, this particular time, I was beaten to the punch. Before I could get a word out, Natalie slapped me high five and said, “Hi, I’m Natalie. Who are you?” And so, our friendship began.
She was such a caring person. Natalie, had a genuine concern for the people around her. She was such an encourager. I remember her complimenting me on several occasions. Even if it was just a little thing, she would make an encouraging comment because she wanted to lift my spirits. I loved that about her.
My wife,Christy, tells the story of a 15 year old Natalie begging Christy to teach her how to drive in the Church parking lot. “Come on, Christy, Please. I can do it,” she said. So, Christy gave in. She let Natalie get in the driver’s seat our car. Christy sat in the passenger seat and gave a 20 minute “pre-lesson lecture” on all the instruments in the car. Finally, the ignition was started. Natalie checked the mirrors, shifted into reverse and slowly began to back out. Christy began to realize that the angle at which they were backing out was a little too sharp and was taking them directly towards the Cadillac in the next parking spot. Calmly Christy said “Step on the brake, Nat.” To which Natali responded, “Which peddle is that?” while simultaneously stomping on the accelerator. No longer calm, Christy screamed back, “Not that one!” Thankfully the car was halted before a collision took place. But that incident also promptly ended the first and only driving lesson between Nat and Christy.
One of my all-time favorite memories in my 20 plus years of student ministry was at Falls Creek 2007. One of our theme nights in out Cabin that year was “Who Am I Night?” We challenged the students to dress up like someone and let the group guess who they were. Several dressed as celebrities and professional athletes; others dressed up as fictional characters or historical figures. Well, unbeknownst to me, Natalie had persuaded Christy to sneak into the guys dorm while everyone was out of the cabin and gather some of my clothes. Taking the clothes from Christy, Nat put on a pair of my shorts and cinched a rope around her waist to hold them up. She put on one of my shirts and stuffed it with a couple of pillows. To complete the ensemble, she put on my visor that I wore all week at camp. So when dinner time arrived and everyone came out in their respective costumes. It was an absolute joy to see the smile on Natalie’s face as she walked up to me and asked. “Can you guess who I am?”
The last thing I shared with those in attendance at the memorial service last week was my clear memory of the night that Natalie responded to an invitation to accept Christ as her Savior. Christy had the privilege of counseling with her that night after her decision. And I believe Natalie made a real decision to give her heart to Jesus. And that hope that she had through the good times and bad times of her 22 year old life, is the same hope that I have. The hope that says even though I am a sinner, and had no hope of a relationship with God on my own; the God of the universe, Jesus Christ, stepped out of heaven, came to earth to live a sinless life so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. And after 33 years, He died on a cross for you and for me, And praise God, three days later He rose from the dead to conquer death so that we could have the hope of living forever in heaven with Him. That is the hope that Natalie put her trust in. That is the hope that my life rests in. No matter where you are, no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done; that hope is still extended to you.
Natalie would want you to know about that hope. And that life is way too short and way too unpredictable not to have that type of hope in your life.