Friday, October 25, 2013

Life because of Leighton


My phone rang on a recent Saturday morning as I sat with my family in a local donut shop. I saw that the caller was Union’s dean of students and knew that this wasn’t good. The dean of students doesn’t call me on a Saturday morning with tidings of comfort and joy.

“We had a student who was killed in a car accident last night,” he told me. “Her name was Leighton Williams.”

I didn’t know Leighton Williams. Had never met her. But now, I am eternally grateful for her and for the impact she has had on my family.

The Union University community is a tight-knit group, and Leighton’s death was a powerful blow to the students. I hated to see them hurt. I grieved for Leighton’s family and friends. It pained me to have to write stories about the news.

The following Tuesday I went to her visitation in Nashville and was struck by how tragic and senseless it all seemed. Here was a 20-year-old girl with a bright future. What looked like a completely random accident had changed all that, leaving heartache, despair and emptiness in its wake.

I had a meeting in Nashville later that evening and returned home to my family the next day. As we finished dinner on that Wednesday evening, the Scripture for our family devotion time was about the crucifixion. I used the occasion to speak to my three children about the gospel, and I used Leighton’s death as an example to them of why this was an urgent matter.

As Leighton went to class on Friday and prepared to travel home for the weekend, she had no idea that she was so close to eternity. Every indication was that Leighton was a believer, and I’m immensely grateful for that. But if she were like most of us, she wasn’t giving death a second thought that day.

I told my children that they needed to consider this. I told them that, like Leighton, they were only an unexpected car accident away from the beginning of eternity. They would stand before a holy God alone in their sins. No advocate. No mediator. The wrath of God amassed against them.

But I also told them that there was hope. Because of what Christ had accomplished through his sinless life, his sacrificial death and his triumphant resurrection, they didn’t need to fear such an outcome. All they had to do was trust in Christ’s work on their behalf — to believe in the gospel — and they would be saved.

My 10-year-old son Daniel was especially moved as he sat and listened to me. Later that night, after I put the kids to bed, Daniel came out of his room with tears in his eyes, saying that he wanted to be a Christian.

I talked with him about what that meant, and I truly believe that my precious son was converted that night. This was God’s answer to the prayers we have offered for his salvation for years. Daniel said later that it was Leighton’s accident that got him to thinking seriously about the state of his soul.

Leighton Williams’ death was a terribly tragedy, and I know the lives of her loved ones will never be the same. We don’t know why God allows such things to happen, and we may never know. But we do know that God is good, that he cares for his people and that he will work all things together for their good.

I do not give thanks for Leighton’s death. It was the work of Satan and the fruit of the sin and rebellion that has so thoroughly ravaged God’s perfect creation. I hated getting that call about the accident. I hated the pain and the grief that it caused. I hate it still.

I do, however, thank God with all my heart that he is a master designer and weaver. He took the tragedy of Leighton’s death and used it for something glorious and good, and my son will forever be with me in heaven because of it.

The impact of Leighton’s life didn’t stop with her death, and God in his providence has forever intertwined her with my family. Though I never met her in this life, I look forward to doing so in the next.

Categories : Family


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