“For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Covid doesn’t care. I don’t think I can count the number of times I have thought or said those words over the last 20 months. The reasons for them have changed a bit over time, but the sentiment is true. Early on in this unfolding chaos, people were taking every precaution they could, but one little slip of exposure could so easily prove to be devastating. And while older and immunocompromised individuals certainly faired the worst, Covid just didn’t seem to care whether you were healthy or not. Perfectly healthy people in the prime of their life got it and died, while folks who “should” have been taken without a struggle weren’t even slowed down by it. Covid just doesn’t care. Well, another person who had no business dying was lost this week. This time it was a friend.
Bubba Chappell was a good man. I don’t mean that in some kind of a patronizing or generic sense. Speaking as a follower of Jesus who is perfectly aware of His retort to the rich young ruler who tried to butter Him up by calling Him “Good Teacher” that only God is good, Bubba was a good man. No, that doesn’t mean he was perfect, but he was a follower of Jesus who sought to live the life of Christ to the best of his ability.
I met Bubba when I was pastoring in Virginia. He was the Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop our church played host to all the years I was there. And, oh, did he love working with those boys. I watched nearly a decade’s worth of involvement and saw no signs that he was slowing down when God called us here to Oakboro. He didn’t just lead the Troop (and provide leadership for the Pack in which my own boys were involved briefly), he invested in the lives of the young men under his care. For an organization that is struggling under the weight of its own failures and internal problems, Bubba represented the best of what it was always intended to be. He taught boys to be men in the best and truest sense of the word.
He could do that because he was a man. Bubba wasn’t a man the way our culture so often poorly defines it. He wasn’t aggressive or arrogant or demeaning of others. He didn’t insist on his own way or ever treat a woman with anything other than the utmost of respect. Bubba was a man in the best biblical sense. He knew how to work and work hard. Much of that came from the fact that he was a farmer. In fact, though he surely didn’t realize it, when Paul Harvey wrote his famous monologue, “So God Made a Farmer,” he was actually talking about Bubba. That was the kind of man he was.
As near as I could tell, he could build or fix anything. When he would cook for the Troop (or even the occasional joint Troop and church event), he had the coolest grill I had ever seen in my life…which, of course, he built all by himself from scratch. Bubba was a big guy, but he was as gentle as a kitten. He was soft-spoken and preferred to be in the background. When I would invite him to come before the church on Scout Sunday each year to share with the congregation some of what the Troop had been doing in the previous year he was just as nervous as could be. But as he shared, you could see the pride and delight in his eyes as he talked about the boys and what they had done. Being up on stage was never what he wanted to do, but it was part of the job, and so he summoned up the courage and got it done. For the boys who knew him, they knew that was no easy task, and yet they saw him tackle it anyway. He was offering important life lessons even then. And though he didn’t talk about himself and his own loves very much – he was far too humble for that – you could see from only a moment with him how much he loved Mary, and how proud he was of Neal and Kendall.
When I learned of his passing from Covid on Tuesday morning, the news stopped me dead in my tracks. If I hadn’t already been sitting down, I would have been looking for a chair to collapse into. My heart broke in that moment for his family and his dear friends and the whole Troop 185 family. It was one of those moments when I wished the distance wasn’t quite so great so I could be there to mourn with them in person. Covid just doesn’t care, and it has long past gotten old.
As I sat down to write this morning, I briefly toyed with offering more commentary on the evil of Covid than that. I could have written about vaccines or masks or being careful. But that’s not what anybody needs, least of all his family.
What I finally settled on beyond my own personal reflections is the hope we have because of the very reason Bubba was such a good man: he was a follower of Jesus. And because he was – is – a follower of Jesus, while his passing is unfair and unnecessary and exceedingly painful and downright evil, those things don’t ultimately win the day. In fact, they don’t ultimately win any day. They’ve already lost. When Jesus came walking back out of the tomb on Sunday morning (as we’ve just gotten to together in Mark’s Gospel!), He defeated sin and death forever. He took away their sting entirely. Oh they still claim victims here and now as we have been so painfully reminded of this week, but for those who are in Christ, such separations are never more than temporary. As Paul wrote here in his letter to the Corinthian believers, “we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed [as Bubba’s has been], we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” And on the day we finally receive that new, permanent body, we will be reunited in the greatest reunion there will ever be.
So, yes, do the things you need to do so as to make the likelihood of your having to walk a similar path to this one as small as it could possibly be, but more than that, pray for the Chappell family. They need it. They’re going to be okay because they are in the hands of the God who won’t leave or forsake them even in this deep, dark valley, but they’re still hurting now and will be for some time. Even more than that, make certain of where your own faith is because life is unpredictable, Covid doesn’t care, and there’s no time like now to start following Jesus so that you are on the path that leads to life in the end, no matter what twists and turns the journey may take between here and there. I will see Bubba again, and I’m looking forward to it. May you be able to confidently say the same.