Two years ago, one of my best friends on the planet went to be with Jesus.
I was devastated. He taught me, he loved me, he helped me grow, and he did it all with the love of Jesus.
Everyone who knew him loved him, but more importantly, they loved Jesus a little more because of him.
I think he was the first person I ever met who really had the secret to life, and it was just simply Jesus.
He loved like Jesus, he talked like Jesus, he laughed with the joy of Jesus – he lived like Jesus.
Was he perfect? No. But that’s why he was the first to say, “Less Larry, More Jesus.” He desperately wanted the glory to point to God in every single moment. There was no selfish ambition laced in any of his words or actions.
He saw the best in everyone. He really did. He saw the best in me even when I felt worthless. And in those moments when I felt so unworthy, I remembered how he thought of me and that led me to remember how my God, my Father, thinks of me.
He loved to teach, he loved to fellowship, he loved to open his home to students and friends, and man did he love his wife.
I’m lucky to have parents who have set an example of a godly, loving marriage, but it was moving to grow to watch and love another couple who showed me how love should look.
I said to myself so often, “I want a man who looks at me the way Larry looks at Verlie.” I was brought to tears on so many different occasions just watching them be. He thought she was the best, most beautiful person on the planet, and he wanted everyone to know that. He treated her like the queen she was. I knew I’d never settle for less than the Nelsons’ love.
Again though, he used the love of Jesus in that marriage, not his own human power. He fell in love with Jesus then fell in love with Verlie, and she did the same.
And he loved his children the same way. The love of Jesus just spewed out from him and splashed all over everyone he touched. It was amazing to watch really.
I’ve never seen someone so respected and loved who took none of the credit and inadvertently sent that respect and love on to the highest power.
He brought people together who otherwise would have never met or been friends. I wanted everyone I knew to meet him and experience the same joy I had when I was with him.
That’s how our relationship with Jesus should be. We should want everyone we know to meet Him so they can feel the joy we have from the freedom he gave us. We can’t keep him to ourselves, we have to share him.
And I couldn’t keep Larry to myself. He was too great for me to be selfish with. I wanted to share my time with him with anyone and everyone.
He saw something in me I had never seen in myself and he made me believe in myself again. He helped me out of a valley and did it with Jesus.
He never shoved Jesus down anyone’s throat, but he sure made everyone want to know what was so special and so magical about him. And that’s when he let them know all about the love and grace he had received that was available for absolutely everyone.
When he got sick, there was a movement of Christ around The University of North Alabama and Florence. And I knew that whenever he went to be with Jesus, he would hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And that brought me so much joy, and encouraged me to live the same.
And when he died, I cried, but I wasn’t sad. I had a peace I had never experienced during a time of death. His funeral was so happy. I laughed and smiled and remembered the most fond memories. You could feel the peace in everyone there.
And in that moment, I knew that’s how I wanted to die. I want to die a death that gives the people I leave behind peace that I am with my Creator. I want everyone who knows me to remember me for my love and my life as a servant of Christ. I want to leave the world just a little bit brighter than it was when I got here. I want my life and death to lead, encourage, and guide other people to the loving God I belong to.
Larry taught me a lot of things I carry with me, but out of all the lessons I learned, two stand out.
Dr. Larry Nelson taught me how to live and he taught me how to die.
And I hope I do both halfway as lovely as he did.