Like many others in my city and in my circle of friends, my life sort of ground to a halt this week. We lost two dear friends in a car accident, and everything feels upside-down now. But it also feels a little clearer, a little more in focus. I was not going to publish about it because so many others have remembered them beautifully, and sometimes you just feel like you have no right to hurt when there are others hurting more deeply. But since their kids have said that knowing how much others loved and were impacted by their parents is a comfort amidst the unbearable heartache, I will join my voice with the thousands of others and say, I love you, Ty & Terri. You are two of the very best.
The morning I received that awful phone call, I had just finished reciting the Beatitudes from Matthew 5, and I can’t help thinking that it was so appropriate.
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. It was mentioned during their memorial service that part of what endeared Ty & Terri to all of us was their openness and vulnerability. They were honest about their struggles and about their total dependence on God their father. And I think we can all agree that because they were vulnerable, we felt safe enough to admit our own struggles, to let down our walls and draw closer to others and to God. Their dependence on God allowed us to take off our masks, to quit pretending to be strong, and to run to Jesus ourselves with all our screw ups and scars. As difficult as it is, if it will make others feel safe and bring them closer to Jesus, I want to open myself up like they did. I desperately, DESPERATELY need God. I struggle, I fail, I break down, and I screw up. But Jesus is so, so crazy about me anyway. May that give me the courage to live openly so others see the love of Jesus, too.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Even as we mourn the loss of Ty & Terri, I’m reminded that they were ones who were acquainted with grief. They knew what it meant to mourn and to depend upon the comfort of God, even in horrific circumstances that no one could understand. I remember times they wept with heavy hearts, grieving over a life lost to violence in our inner city. And now they are in the arms of their father, experiencing the ultimate comfort. Experiencing the loss of Ty & Terri and reflecting on their life has made me believe now more than ever, that no matter how scary and awful it is, we can’t hide from our emotions. God himself is an emotional God, and he grieves with us in our pain. Emmanuel, “God with us”, runs to us and embraces us, joining us in the places our hearts are hurting. And if we deny the depth of our pain, we deny God’s comfort. May I never stuff or hide my pain, so that I won’t miss out on the comfort of God.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. Ty & Terri did not see themselves as extraordinary people, just people who were extraordinarily loved by God, and who wanted to share that love with everyone they met. Ty & Terri were constantly valuing others, and putting others ahead of themselves. They did not seek fame, though ironically, it turns out they are famous. These humble people are now in the presence of God, and they have received an inheritance beyond their wildest dreams, I’m sure of it. May I never exalt myself, but seek to walk humbly and honor others. May I put others first, just like Ty & Terri did.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. I doubt you’d find two people more passionate about justice than Ty & Terri. They saw a problem in our city, and they were not ok with it. They saw a place where dreams didn’t come true, where dreaming was not even possible due to poverty, fatherlessness, and hopelessness. And their greatest desire was to see that change. They wanted every child in Omaha to have the chance their kids had: a chance to be loved, valued, and a chance for a good future. And they didn’t sit back and just wish for it—they did something about it. They longed for it so badly that they poured their lives into that dream. And they got to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth because they hungered for it. They got to see Heaven intersecting earth because they were willing to lay it all down to see justice for the hopeless. Be assured, they will be satisfied. God is in the business of bringing justice to the oppressed, to the poor, to those on the margins. And Ty & Terri partnered with God in that mission. May their lives inspire us all to do the same.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Ty & Terri had the rare ability to love with wide open arms and not a trace of judgement. That’s why gang members felt comfortable in their home, and that’s why dignitaries were drawn to them. If you wanted to know what God’s mercy felt like, you could spend time with Ty & Terri. I’ve heard stories of people who weren’t necessarily huge fans of Christianity, but after spending time with Ty & Terri, wanted to know the Jesus they talked about. They knew the sweet mercy and extravagant love of God, and it practically bled out of them. I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect, and I need a WHOLE LOT of mercy. God has been ridiculously kind in showing extravagant mercy to me. I want to live life like Ty & Terri, extending mercy radically and generously. Because when it comes to the end of my life, I’m not going to wish I had judged a little more, or told a few more people how I thought they were doing this or that wrong so they could see the “error of their ways”. How ludicrous. I’m going to wish I had given a few more hugs, believed the best, and loved with abandon, like they did. Like Jesus does.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. Ty & Terri had pure hearts. They didn’t have ulterior motives, and they weren’t self-seeking. They loved purely, and they saw God because of it. Ty & Terri experienced God in their real, actual, day-to-day lives, and they wanted the same for everyone else. They saw people as God did: through eyes of unsurpassable love. I believe God gave them this gift because their hearts were fully given to him. Jesus, take all of me. May I be fully given to you, so much so that my eyes are unclouded. Purify my heart so that my eyes can see you, and see others the way you do.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. If you had sat down with Ty & Terri and asked if their journey had been easy, they would’ve laughed in your face (kindly). They took risks in doing what they felt God had asked them to do, and they experienced hardships along the way. They went through hell to bring Heaven to earth. But now they are experiencing their reward. And if you were given the chance to sit down with them today, I know they’d tell you the reward FAR outweighs the hardship. I think they’d tell us all to persevere in doing what’s right, because “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Ty & Terri Schenzel were people fully given to God, and were used by him to change thousands of lives. Their ability to love others in such a powerful way is proven by the fact that we all feel like we were their best friends.
“Yeah, I was their favorite.”
—anyone who’s ever met them
And that makes so much sense, because that’s how Ty felt about God. He would say so often in his sermons that God’s love was SO incredibly abundant for him and he felt it so deeply that he felt like God’s favorite. He used to say: “God loves you more than anybody else. Not really, but kind of.” He so badly wanted us all to experience the love of God like he had, because he knew it would change our lives.
During their funeral, one of their kids referred to their dad as their “love-blinded cheerleader”. What a beautiful, accurate description. And I can’t help thinking that he got that from his Daddy. He had the deep revelation that God’s attitude toward us is that of a “love-blinded cheerleader.” God is so crazy in love with each of us, and if we knew just how much, we’d love others differently. Ty & Terri knew something deep down in their bones that could be called “the secret of life”. They wanted us all to know—to REALLY REALLY believe—that God was head over heels for us. They knew that if people could get ahold of that truth, experience it, and believe it with every fiber of their being, our world would be changed.
Feeling this loss, watching the collective pain of our community, and reading about their lives has begun to work a change in me. As often happens with tragedy, I see my world clearer. Ty & Terri left no regrets, and I want to make sure I live “regret-free” too. The things that really matter are coming into focus. Meditating on their lives is changing the way I treat my kids, my husband, and it’s shifting my whole perspective on life. What really matters is that God loves us with an everlasting love. My daughters’ Bible says a “Never-stopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” I want my life to be oriented around this. Jesus is what matters. And when I know his love, I can share it.
God, though it hurts so badly because we love them so much, may we feel the full effect of two lives well lived. May we let our own lives be changed by the perspective their death brings. Let us throw out everything in our lives that doesn’t matter, that doesn’t last, and run with our eyes on eternity. May we live our lives to the fullest, and may we live them for love. Thanks, Ty & Terri, for showing us how.