A Tribute to Paul Lee’s Legacy

paul-lee-foundation-danceforpau

We all grapple with inescapable, fundamental questions like, “How do I discover my purpose and core values? What does a well-lived life look like? What’s the meaning of life, anyway?”

God is not only the Creator and Author of life, but the Grand Weaver. Life isn’t just a series of random strands of thread, but experiences which God weaves into a magnificent piece of workmanship. Our lives have meaning and purpose.

At least that made sense in theory until a few weeks ago. On the morning of June 6, 2014, my girlfriend called me at work, weeping uncontrollably. When she collected herself and relayed the devastating news of a shooting incident at Seattle Pacific University, I was speechless. The victim, Paul Lee, was a close friend of my girlfriend’s family. Though I didn’t know Paul very well, I’d met with him several times and knew his parents pretty well.

I was in utter disbelief. I would never have thought someone I knew could be involved in a shooting incident. I learned that Paul Lee was a faithful follower of Christ, a passionate dancer with contagious smiles and laughter. I couldn’t contain my frustration. I blurted out, “How could an all-loving, all-powerful God allow such unspeakable evil—especially to a family who has put their hope in Christ?” Suddenly, the idea of God as the Grand Weaver felt like hocus-pocus.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Paul’s family and the unspeakable pain they endured. Several days after the incident, my girlfriend and I paid a quick a visit to them to express our condolences. A few days later, we attended Paul’s funeral, where the pastor and Paul’s relatives shared about his life. It was a sobering event, wrought with profound emotion. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

I felt strongly that I needed to share Paul’s story. So here is the legacy he left all of us.

Overcome Evil with Good

Despite the legitimate temptation to harbor anger toward the shooter and do nothing, Paul’s family overcame evil with good . 

It might be easy to fall into the trap of complaining, blaming God, and condemning evil in society. But griping does nothing but discourage us even more. It changes nothing because there is no positive power in it.

paul-lee-foundation

In less than a week after Paul’s funeral, I learned that his family established a foundation in honor of Paul’s life. The Paul Lee Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness and resources for those struggling with mental or emotional health. Paul had a genuine heart for people and a gift for knowing when others needed to be loved and supported, which led him to study psychology. Tragically, his life was ended by the very kind of person he wanted to help. In fact, roughly one in four American adults suffers from diagnosed mental disorders.

Mourning Paul’s death must have been overwhelming, but his family quickly turned devastation into God’s calling. I couldn’t help but think about God’s providence and His goodness in relation to Ravi Zacharias’ concept of God as our Grand Weaver. In his book The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives, I learned that life events are not random and meaningless strands of thread, but rather precise designs woven with remarkable care, thought, and intent. In other words, God is in fact our Grand Weaver who pulls each thread of our lives into a work of art that displays His magnificent and unfathomable workmanship.

Zacharias says, “A purposeful design emerges when the Father weaves a pattern from what to us may often seem disparate threads. Even today, if you will stop and attend to it, you will see that God is seeking to weave a beautiful tapestry in your life.” As I deeply reflected on the shooting, God reminded me of Job’s perspective: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Every thread matters and has a specific purpose.

Quality over Quantity

Though Paul was only nineteen, the depth and breadth of the influence and legacy he wove into the lives of others are overwhelmingly apparent.

Listen to what his friends had to say about Paul:

Fabian Turcios: You always knew how to put a smile on someone’s face without saying a word.

Hannah Kim: You were not only incredibly fun to be around, but also deeply caring and compassionate . . . But for me, I’ve learned so much from your positivity and your genuine love for God and everyone around you.

Cody Kilpatrick: Paul, you were a gifted dancer, a shameless comic and possessed a truly unique faith. I will forever treasure our conversations about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and what it means to become a better person.

Take a look at this short video, which celebrates Paul’s life.

paul-lee-dancing

Many others echoed similar sentiments. Despite Paul’s young age, he fulfilled God’s calling. Paul’s life strengthened my belief that all of us need to live intentionally. We live with Kingdom impact by stewarding our time, talent, and treasure in response to God’s calling. As Psalm 90:12 (ESV) says, we need to rely on Him to “teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Instead of living each moment as if we’re on autopilot, we ought to think about our Grand Weaver’s final artwork—His workmanship. For example, what will be written on your epitaphWhat if you had only one month to live? What legacy are you leaving on this earth? Once you discover how you want to live for God and be remembered, rewind back to the present and ask yourself what you need to do to make that happen.

Cure the Epidemic of Fatherlessness

In less than a week after the SPU shooting incident, another transpired in a high school a few miles from where I work in Portland, Oregon. A freshman was shot to death in a locker room and the shooter took his own life. I was again taken aback by the senseless evil. I felt helpless—like there was nothing I could do. The only thing I could do was pray.

But God helped me begin to connect the dots. He showed me a connection to the tragedies with my involvement in Embrace Oregon, a child welfare initiative to connect caring people with vulnerable children through partnership with the Department of Human Services to establish thriving communities.

I discovered that many shooters and serial killers grow up in broken homes or single-parent families where no father is present. Numerous studies show that children do better by every social indicator when a father is in the home. Children in father-absent households are almost four times as likely to be poorer than their peers. Being raised without a father increases the incidence of teen pregnancy and marriage before high school completion. A Michigan State University study of seventy-two adolescent murderers discovered that 75 percent had parents who were divorced or had never married.

As we honor lives of the victims, let’s keep in mind that these incidents do not happen in isolation. They become part of the fabric of the basic building block of society—the family. And when you destroy families, you destroy a nation. In the U.S., we’re experiencing the manifestation of such erosion.

The family is a gift that God has given us since the Garden of Eden. It is our obligation and joy as Jesus-followers to steward this gift. I pray that God will use these moments to shine His light upon this darkness and that the nation will ultimately see His goodness and love despite such tragedies.

After all, God, our Father, is our Grand Weaver, who uses different threads to create a masterpiece. Though the pattern takes time to recognize, when we stop and prayerfully focus on the big picture, we can’t help but be amazed by what God has in store for us.