My mentor Manley Christopher Beasley passed away with many things left unaccomplished, but he left a lasting impression on me.
“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord. … So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” —1 Thessalonians 1:5–6; 2:8
On Sunday, August 26, 2018, at 8:15 a.m., I received a phone call from my best friend, Terry Irwin. Our mentor, Manley Christopher Beasley, had passed on from this life to go see the Lord. He was 40 years old.
According to some ways of measuring, you might say Chris led an unsuccessful life. He died young. He never married. He didn’t have children. He didn’t finish his Masters of Divinity. He never exactly got a career going—ministry or otherwise—unless you count a short stint pastoring an aged and dying church in small-town Iowa. There’s a lot Chris didn’t do. And yet his personal influence on me is inestimable in forming my faith in Jesus and making me who I am.
I initially met Chris as an eighth-grader when he became a youth ministry intern at my church. He started a nameless Bible study with a handful of students, which would eventually grow to over 50 of us cramming into small meeting rooms at our houses twice a week. We cycled through countless guests over the next four years—I feel as though my entire high school at least heard about our Bible study.
His message, which he delivered with infectious gusto, always included a transparent appeal to repent from a life of wickedness and self-interest and instead submit to Christ as rightful master. Though Chris did preach through the whole counsel of Scripture, many would leave when they found out Chris preached the “same” message every week. Those of us who stuck around knew we needed to hear that message time and again. Sometimes Chris would get carried away and go on preaching for over an hour.
On a practical level—good intentions and all—the Bible study should have failed tremendously. Youth group students do not have the attention for long preaching. Nor do people in general have a love for preaching on sin and lordship. Chris’s explanation for the Bible study’s influence was that the Spirit laid a particular burden on him to preach the gospel in that way, and it was the Spirit who did the work.
I believe one thing that made a difference was that Chris truly knew Jesus and everyone could tell. He knew and loved Jesus so well that he constantly studied the Word in order to know him even more. It was one of his greatest passions. Chris considered the Bible not merely true truth but a direct line of communication to God. Chris knew and loved Jesus so well, that he was also a man of consistent prayer. He believed in the power of prayer, especially in enlisting God’s transformative power for those Chris befriended and ministered to. He came from a family with a great legacy of prayer. Dependence was one of his favorite words—we must depend on God.
But perhaps the secret to Chris’s influence was the way he embodied Christ to us outside of a twice-weekly Bible study; the way a college-aged man seemed to have endless energy and time to befriend a rabble of junior high boys; how he stayed up long after those Bible study meetings to eat Mexican food or watch TV shows with us; how he came to our houses and befriended our families; or how he went out of his way over and over to invite us into his home, particularly when there was nothing to do. He would half-jokingly say our willingness to do nothing together was how he knew we were his real friends.
Dissonance and Resolution
As Chris entered his early 30s, the age I am now, a midlife crisis hit hard. The kids that he had discipled for years had all grown up, but many of us scattered after high school—some of us really went off the deep end and forsook Christ and the church. He treated a couple guys as though they were his own children, but despite hard pursuit through prayer, repeatedly forgiving them, and even bailing one out of jail with his own money, Chris wondered if his efforts were worthless. The sting of betrayal at that time was acute. Chris was tempted to sink into the kind of nihilism that calls life totally meaningless.
But that wasn’t the truth. Terry was the one who pointedly asked in the depth of Chris’ depression, “I’m here! Am I nothing?” If I had to guess, it was probably in that period that Chris really took to heart Jesus’ words, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). Chris came to deeply grasp that even in our greatest efforts, the work is the Lord’s alone. He did come out of that depression, and the next 10 years were assuredly full of more joy in the pursuit of God than the previous 30.
As I became an adult, Chris grew into something more than a mentor—he became a deep and cherished friend. Although I never saw him in person for the last seven years of his life, we often spoke on the phone for hours at a time, sometimes multiple times a week. When I came back from the mission field, it was Chris who talked me through reverse culture shock at night. It was Chris who was there to talk through my most difficult seminary papers with me—he did this for Terry as well. Even though he didn’t finish his own degree, he could brag that he had two disciples who did.
Chris sojourned with us like a stranger in a strange country for 40 years. He poured himself out like water, which sinks into the cracks or evaporates and is gone. He wasted himself on us to bring us nearer to Christ, whom he loved. Would I say he changed the world? Well, he certainly changed mine.
This article originally appeared on TheUpstreamCollective.org.
“is like, is”
by Manley Christopher Beasley
Love is like weight, heavy on my chest;
ever increasing gravity, painfully sublime.
Shoving me, pushing me down to the center,
a crushing preponderance—it’s hard to inhale!
Love is like dizziness, reeling and dangerous;
a vertiginous toil; a labor that swoons,
leaving me woozy in disorientation;
an emotive inhalant that crosses my eyes.
Love is like panic, overwhelming my reason—
I act without cogitation—a nocturnal sprint,
myopic and running (maybe to darker things)—
no time for deliberation—off the overhang I dive.
Love is an earnestness; a pervading passion;
a coal; even a fire that burns in the heart.
It pursues us with joy and invades with desire.
A conquering King crushing His foes.