It’s been one year, though it seems just like yesterday. I’ll never forget what happened. Ethan, Tobias, and I were sitting on the side of a bluff by the trail, waiting for the others to get back out of the cave. I suggested we climb up to the top. The three of us began to climb, and Ethan said, “First one to the top wins.” I had no idea those would be the last words I’d ever hear him say.
Tobias and Ethan quickly reached the top. I’m not much of a climber, and with slippery leaves covering the slope, I took my time as I slowly ascended. I was about two-thirds of the way up when I heard Tobias exclaim about lots of poison ivy. Not wanting to get into that, I decided I had climbed high enough and began to carefully make my way down.
It was then that I heard it: the sound of something sliding down the leaves at great speed. I froze when I looked up and saw Ethan slipping down the slope in a sitting position. I had no idea how it happened; all I knew was that he was going to pass by within just a few feet of me. Immediately, I knew what Ethan was heading towards. There was a steep drop to the path, then another bluff below it.
During those few seconds, millions of thoughts flew through my mind, but every one of them ended in disaster. I was in a precarious position myself, with nothing around to grab ahold of. Ethan was as large as I was, and at the speed he was sliding, I didn’t see how I could grab him while keeping my balance and not being pulled down myself. Yet, I couldn’t just do nothing. I had no idea what to do.
As he slid past me, I simply reached out, not knowing what else to do. I couldn’t quite get ahold of his jacket. I expected him to try to grip my arms, but instead he simply pushed by. At that point, all I could do was watch as he fell.
I don’t even remember how I got back down to the path, but somehow I did. As I saw others going to help him, I decided it would be best for me to simply head back to the entrance of the hike and see if I could get more help. I was in deep shock and knew if I tried to climb down to help, I would simply be a hindrance.
Medics were called and arrived on the scene. Many of Ethan’s friends had gone to help, but I stayed at the picnic tables, not wanting to even think about what happened. I simply prayed with tears in my eyes.
An hour went by, then another. Finally, we heard that they had Ethan on a stretcher and were trying to get him up the bluff. One of the ladies suggested that each of us guys pray. I remember telling God that He knew where every single one of Ethan’s wounds were, and asking that He’d heal them all. It was around that time that Ethan passed away. God answered my prayer; not in the way that I wanted or expected, but in the way that was in His will.
What I experienced and went through next mentally and spiritually, I have described in my writing, “Will Your Faith Stand.” It has been a difficult journey since then, but one that God has used to grow me stronger in Him. Not only did I lose my friend, but I was there and saw it happen. There are times in which I start feeling partly responsible. What if I hadn’t suggested we climb the bluff? What if I tried harder to grab him as he slid past me? What if? What if? But as I think about that day, I think about all the events leading up to that moment. There were countless times where if something had happened slightly differently, we most likely wouldn’t have climbed that bluff. But the fact is that it did happen that way, and we did climb, and he did fall. God has given me peace that whatever might have happened differently, the end result would’ve been the same. It was God’s time for Ethan to go to heaven, though we may not understand it. Nothing could change that.
Ethan was the closest friend on this earth I ever had, even though he was several years younger than I. When my family moved to Missouri back in 2017, I was a shy and partly reclusive teenager who hid himself in a box of fear. I didn’t like that box at all; I wanted to be friendly and have friends, though I didn’t know how to get out. But a couple weeks after we started attending Liberty Faith Church, Ethan introduced himself and we soon became great friends.
Without his help, I think I’d still be in that box to this day. I can remember a few occasions where he practically forced me to get involved with the other teens at the church. Our friendship grew, and we became big parts of each others’ lives. We were both in the choir. I began running the sound booth at church, and a couple of years later, he started as well. My dad hired him on as a worker for our family business. There was even a film project that we were both a part of. God intertwined our lives together, and I’m very thankful for it.
I have great memories of joking around, competing with Rubik’s cubes (I still can’t beat his record), taking hikes, playing volleyball, singing, and more. We had many good times together, and I hope I never forget them. Ethan was a wonderful young man who loved the Lord. He was always involved in the church. He would upload the sermons and choir specials to youtube to help spread the truth. I’m thankful God gave me such a good friend.
Why did I write all of this? I felt it was time to share my experience that day. Perhaps it will help someone in some way. Through it all, God used it to strengthen and purify my faith. I am very thankful for the few years God gave me with Ethan, but our friendship isn’t over.
What do I mean? Well, I know Ethan is in heaven, and someday I’ll join him there. How do I know he’s in heaven? Well, it’s not because of how good he was. The Bible states that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Ethan was a great young man, but even he had faults and sin, just like the rest of us. God is a loving God, but also holy and just. He cannot allow sin into heaven, and because of that, each and every one of us are doomed to hell.
But then how is Ethan in heaven? As I said, God is a loving God, and loves us more than we can comprehend. He cannot allow our sin into heaven, yet He has no joy in the death of the wicked. The Bible teaches that sin requires an innocent sacrifice to pay for it. No amount of our good deeds can pay for even one sin. So, He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth in the form of man. He lived a sinless life, the only life worthy of heaven. Yet the world despised Him, and crucified Him on the cross. When that happened, He took all the sins of the world and sacrificed Himself for us, dying on that cross. But on the third day, He conquered even death, rising from the grave so that all may have eternal life!
So why is Ethan in heaven? Because before he died, he accepted Christ as his Savior. By doing so, Christ’s innocent blood was imputed to Ethan, paying for all his sins. When he died, God did not see Ethan’s sins, but rather His beloved Son’s payment. Because of that, Ethan is now spending eternity in the presence of God.
What about you? Think about it. God has a love so strong for us, that He sent His only Son to die. Would you send your child to die for someone else? Yet, God did so that we all may have a chance at eternal life. If you think your own works will save you, you are spitting at the sacrifice of Jesus. God will not tolerate that. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast."
Repent, admit that you’re a sinner , accept Christ as your Savior, and He will save you.
Don’t put it off. You have no idea how long you have on this earth. Ethan only had 16 years. What if he decided to wait until he was older, thinking he had plenty of time? For those who are younger, what if you only have 16 years, or maybe less? For those who are older, God has already blessed you with a longer life than He gave Ethan. You have no idea how short the remainder of your life is. When I left for that hike with my friends, I had no idea we’d be returning without one of them. When we sang “Amazing Grace” in the cave, I had no idea that that would be the last time I’d ever sing with Ethan again. I had no idea that at the time we were planning to have lunch, we would instead be crying and praying. Life is short, and death is sudden. Ethan was ready to go, and so am I. Are you? It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing; God is willing to accept you into His family. Call to Him now, confess your sin to Him, and accept Christ into your heart as your Savior before it’s eternally too late.