The outpouring of grief over the death of our Principal Mike Ovey has been extraordinary. So much has been said. So much is still to be said. So much could be said.
Mike was my dear friend and brother, my boss and co-conspirator, my mentor and inspiration. I just wanted to say a few personal words which I know reflect the thoughts of our community at Oak Hill College.
We were astounded by Mike’s towering intellect, insight, originality and orthodoxy: a theological savant.
We were amazed at his pastoral heart and wisdom; his generosity of time (which often bordered on the ridiculous); his kindness, vulnerability, and the fact that he seemed to have no ego.
We were astonished by his terrible and inappropriate jokes, his social awkwardness and his administrative incompetence.
Mike’s death on Saturday has left us all devastated. I have never questioned a providence so much in my life and never has Mike’s teaching on the Creator-creature distinction been more applied to the difference between our plans and that of our Maker’s.
Appropriately as a college community, we spent much of Monday mourning, crying, remembering and meditating on these words from Deuteronomy: ‘The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law’ (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Mike was our leader and we loved him. But more he was the Lord’s and the Lord loves him more.
Of all the amazing support I’ve received in the last two days, it is this little Spurgeon meditation on John’s gospel (Mike’s beloved John’s gospel) which has given me great comfort through all the tears.
Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.
O Death! Why dost thou touch the tree beneath whose spreading branches weariness hath rest? Why dost thou snatch away the excellent of the earth, in whom is our delight? If thou must use thine axe, use it upon the trees which yield no fruit; thou mightst be thanked then. But why wilt thou fell the goodly cedars of Lebanon? O stay thine axe, and spare the righteous. But no, it must not be; death smites the goodliest of our friends; the most generous, the most prayerful, the most holy, the most devoted must die. And why? It is through Jesus’ prevailing prayer – ‘Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am’. It is that which bears them on eagle’s wings to heaven. Every time a believer mounts from this earth to paradise, it is an answer to Christ’s prayer. A good old divine remarks, ‘Many times Jesus and His people pull against one another in prayer. You bend your knee in prayer and say, “Father, I will that Thy saints be with me where I am”; Christ says, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am”.’ Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from His throne, and say, ‘Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?’ Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, ‘Jesus, not my will, but Thine be done’. You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realise the thought that Christ is praying in the opposite direction – ‘Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am’. Lord, Thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go. (CH Spurgeon, Morning & Evening)
Having let Mike go, we are resolved more than ever to build on his huge legacy in the training of men and women to be servant leaders who can be the best possible gift to Christ’s church. We thank God for his life.