A Friend Never Dies

This was posted by Victor Labrada about Josh Bien-Aime, my friend.   I thank God for Josh. Five years is a long time. I miss my friend.

Victor’s post:

It’s been five years since Josh left. I was telling someone today (someone who never had the pleasure of meeting Josh) that if you ever become friends with anyone who knew Josh, you get a bit of Josh. Whether they know it or not, they are beaming Josh. I am the product of every man I’ve ever met. None of those men more formative to my growth than Josh Bien-Aime. If you’ve ever liked anything about me, thank Josh.

What follows is the story of our friendship, a story I told at his funeral, March 17th, 2007:

I can’t remember exactly at which point it was that Josh completely changed my life. It may have been in a well-planned Sunday school lesson. But it was probably in some meandering four-hour conversation on his back porch.

Josh completely changed the way I viewed life, Christianity, relationships. Until I met him, Grace was just another cute name for a daughter. From Josh, I learned that life is not about achieving, or ‘getting to the next level.’ Life is about asking the right questions. It shouldn’t be reduced to making money and buying stuff to make us happy.

Every metaphor I have ever used for Grace or gospel or to understand my relationship with God, with people. With all of you. Every metaphor, every idea, I learned from Josh.

If you ever had the opportunity to be in one of his classes, you probably heard it. Life is not a formula. God is not a formula. There are no steps. There is only the gospel.  And no matter how bad you think you are, you are actually much worse. And God still loves you. So stop trying to make up rules just so you can follow them. Start loving, start asking the right questions.

I always left Sunday school wishing that more people had heard the message. But I learned it didn’t matter who showed up, because I had heard the message and now I could take it elsewhere.

Josh’s biggest testimony to me was his complete gratitude towards God. He had kidney failure when he was 23. Instead of turning away from God, he thanked God for giving him the opportunity to live with a transplant. He lived life as if it was a gift from God. Because it was and it is.

When Josh’s body ultimately rejected the transplant in the winter of 2003, he kept his same goofy grin. His dialysis, which was a four-hour session three times a week, seemed like a minor inconvenience to him.

He soon moved into the missionary apartments across the street from here. I spent most of my fifth year of college, there. Talking and watching TV late into the night. Tivo-ed episodes of The Saint, Desperate Housewives, professional wrestling, bad kung-fu movies. That’s probably why I took five years to graduate. He would usually be up for going to Starbucks any time and killing a few hours when he should have probably been home resting. We confided in each other and communicated on any level. We revisited the same jokes all the time and they were always funny.

That time, when it was just me, Josh and a conversation. Those were the richest moments of my life.

And when Josh’s health began to deteriorate even more, he kept that same resilient smile. I was never scared of losing Josh, because he was never scared. And I knew how much pain he was actually in. The pain he would not tell most people about.

These past three months, from when Josh first checked into the hospital, I visited him often and I always brought expectations of a quick recovery. Josh had always made it through before. I had expectations of inviting Josh over to my new place, watching some kung-fu and talking about… anything. I had expectations.

Josh never expected to get rich. He always joked about marrying a rich woman or becoming good friends with Shaquille O’Neal.

Josh never expected to grow old yet he lived at the relaxed pace of eternity.

Josh never expected to do many things that you and I expect to do.

But he did expect to change lives. He did expect for us to know what Grace means and what living in the gospel means. He did expect to finish his work.

Well, he did change lives. And I hope we all know what Grace and Gospel mean. And for those who don’t know, for those who never had the blessing of knowing Josh, it is up to you and me, to carry out the work. His words are among us, in bodies able to spread them. Josh can rest now. He is at peace without pain.

Yea, when this heart and flesh shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease

I shall possess within the veil

A life of Joy and Peace.

We love you, Josh.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 12, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Thank you. Such a rich testimony of a transforming life.

    Reply

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