This past weekend, tragedy hit the Virginia Beach/Norfolk community when a random act of violence cost the lives a 17-year-old boy and a police officer caught in the fire.
Things like this make me sick to my stomach.
Mark Rodriguez, was a high school junior, and the oldest of four children, who grew up in the most incredible family–one that loves God and puts Him first in everything they do.
I had the privilege of babysitting Mark several times when he was a little boy and beyond being incredibly precious, what I remember about him was that he was a little boy who was kind and respectful, loved his parents and siblings, and had a joy and energy about him that was contagious.
From what I’ve read about him over the weekend, it seems those qualities only deepened and developed as he grew older.
Nearly two months before this tragedy, Mark wrote a blog post on heaven. If we have mutual friends on Facebook, chances are you’ve seen it. Already, it’s been shared nearly 5,000 times and has been quoted throughout all of the recent news coverage on the shootings.
When I first saw it, not knowing what had happened, I was so struck by this passion and love for God for such a young guy. It caused me to pray over my own little boy, that he will grow up with a similar heart that longs to know and love God above all else.
Then, upon learning of what happened to Mark, I couldn’t believe the timing of his post. Here is an excerpt:
“I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect.”
Mark goes on to write. “I love the image of Heaven because it is perfect, perfect peace. Every quarrel, every hurt, it’s all gonna be resolved. All of God’s children will be together and we won’t hurt each other anymore; we’ll finally understand how to love perfectly. And the fact that we’ll all be worshiping the Lord together in one place, forever….that amazes me.”
Is that beautiful, or what?
When people pass away, one of the common cliches is, “We can take comfort that they are in a much better place…” It’s probably quoted so much, because it is so, so true, but how often to we just mutter those words, without really thinking through them?
I’m in awe of Mark’s faith, maturity and His understanding of heaven. When most 17-year-old boys are more concerned with 17-year-old boy things (no idea what those are…girls?, iphones?, surfing?) Here is a remarkable person, who above all else, longed to “be completely in the presence of God and…be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me.”
Mark’s words have encouraged and challenged me to live a life looking up, rather than consumed by the meaningless things that distract me on a daily basis. How I long to be a woman who lives a life that daily longs for more of God’s presence.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
It is certainly true that Mark is in a much better place, rejoicing in the presence of God in perfect, perfect peace. But for his family, friends, and community, the road to healing and rebuilding after such a shocking loss is only just beginning. If you think about it, please keep them in your prayers. And pray that Mark’s life and his words will continue to have an eternal impact on everyone who comes across his story.
Read Mark’s full post on heaven here.
Watch a local news report here:
Hear Mark’s parents speak at his school’s memorial service below. (The sound isn’t great, so you may need to turn it up, but it’s definitely worth listening to.)