Rebekah Guthrie, sister of Joshua
Even when I was a little kid, I loved my brother. With only two of us, and me being five and a half years younger, it was mostly hero-worship, where I would follow him and he would conveniently lose me (those are good stories). It wasn’t until Josh realized that little girls are chick magnets did he let me tag along, but always with the reminder that his greatest disappointment was that he got a little sister instead of the puppy he had asked for.
Though our friendship was rocky at first, I was finally deemed human when I was in high school, and Josh and I became closer as we got older. At different times, we both felt that we were called to the mission field. We both loved people with an intensity. Our paths and plans looked somewhat the same, and we were both glad to have a friend in each other; someone to encourage and understand this call to ministry. So, Josh and I hit the road together. We went out to meet people that inspired us, or to conventions that we thought could help us. We started reading the same books and our conversations began to center around how we could work together to achieve true change in the world through the transforming power of Christ.
Not that we never fought. Many of our friends didn’t want to hang out with us together. As one friend put it, "It gets intense." If we agreed on something, anyone who disagreed with us would soon regret it. If we disagreed, people were afraid to take sides.
When Josh started noticing some muscle loss in his left hand in arm, it didn’t seem that serious. I’d laugh when he would drop a glass that he was holding, but it wasn’t soon after that when we realized that something was horribly wrong. When all the top specialists in the country say ALS (a terminal illness) ̶̶ your whole life changes. My family’s conversations changed. Instead of laughing and joking and excitedly planning out possible futures, Josh and I began to think about other things: faith, friendship, family. What is important? We had never thought this would happen. Our perspective changed. Josh changed.
One afternoon, after Josh had received three painful spinal taps in one day, I came home to find him resting in my room. I opened the door and he turned to look at me, tears streaming down his face. I had never seen him cry before, and the fear that rose at the thought that we would lose him and in such a terrible way came like a near-panic. I went and sat on the edge of the bed as he wept and questioned out loud, "Why would God let me die like this?" He was devastated at that thought that he never fly again, that he would lose his ability to be out and independent, meeting and ministering to people. I remember those as dappled days; full of the dark fear of loss and the bright moments that we had as a family who know that they’re blessed by each new day they are given.
When Josh’s miracle occurred, when his muscles in his arm stopped degenerating, and the doctors said they didn’t know why it began or why it stopped; Josh changed as well. We, as a family, had one of us face death and, in the face of it, we grew together and in faith. Josh knew God had done all of it for a reason, so he began sharing. It was his testament of God’s faithfulness. That God is indeed, sovereign.
After his illness, Josh and I had become better friends that we ever had been before. We settled down in apartments only two blocks away from each other. These were the best days; days that I consciously knew that I had been re-gifted by God. They were days that I had never expected to have, so I clung to them all the more fiercely, praising Him for another chance to love my brother. They were days of long conversations on how we could serve God, of barbecues and cook-outs, flights over Pittsburgh, and more road trips to more places.
Josh always said it was good for me to be around him. I always agreed. He helped me to embrace my gifts and seek out opportunities. He would always tell me that he had the ideas and I had the go-through for them. He’d get annoyed with me and say that he was Inspiration and I was Reason. For example, when he called me about a job he had found for both of us to go and get out of debt, I said, "Great! Where?"…"Well," he said, "It’s in a war zone. We’d have to wear flack jackets to work, but it pays well!"
Before Josh left for Florida, we talked quite a bit. We were worried for each other, each of us going our separate ways on our journey to pursue mission work. One of his last gifts to me was a new cell phone and to set me up with an unlimited texting plan. He said he would need it to keep tabs on me, and he did. Very rarely did a day go by where we didn’t talk.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss Josh right now. His story was such a part of mine, and I can’t imagine foraging ahead without him there, encouraging me and helping me, getting me in trouble and out of it again, laughing with me and grieving with me. These days are dappled days, like the ones of before, but of deeper sorrow and greater joy. I am a blessed woman. I had a brother with whom I shared an incredible friendship. He was given back to me and we shared the knowledge and belief that God is mighty and above all, even death.
So many people have said to me, "Why now? Why would God take a young man just starting out in his dream?" I’ll tell you what Josh would say, and I know…because God let us face this once before. We talked so much of this because we had to talk of it. He’d say, "Don't take me when I'm old and sick. Don't take me slowly, when I'm doing nothing for the Kingdom. Take me when I'm at the top. Take me when I'm on fire for Christ."
May we all be so blessed.
This site was last updated 10/06/10