On the very first day of my very first seminary class, I met him. Many of my colleagues had told their various horror stories of seminary Greek - they waited as long as they could to take it, but being a contrarian by nature, I set out to take it first.
I entered the classroom and scanned the scene, and found the seat nearest the back left corner (by the chalkboard). The corner seat was already taken by a blonde guy with as big a head as I have. Maybe even bigger. His name was Chad Max Miller, and we became instant friends.
As Greek class went on, we found out that it was really pretty easy. Bordering on simple, actually. Especially if you had been a foreign language major in college. As Chad and I had both majored in German in college, we found that we were simply tasked with memorizing new word endings and vocabulary. Thus the back corner of this particular Greek class resembled the back of another classroom.
Chad and I were instant friends, not just because we were good at Greek. We had a lot more in common than that. We played pick-up soccer frequently - besides a couple of people I knew from being in class with, pretty much everyone I knew in seminary was someone I played sports with. Chad was no exception. We could always be found playing soccer together. He used to joke that when we started playing pick-up soccer, he was one of the best players, but by the time we graduated, he was one of the worst. And through that time, he had improved his game a lot! It was just that the level of competition went through the roof during our time there.
Chad was an intense guy. We lifted weights together in the seminary's (sad little) weight room - when the sewer backed up and flooded the (downstairs) weight room with raw sewage, Chad and I brought all the equipment upstairs and washed it thoroughly. We stuck a nametag on the door of the (old) weight room naming it "The Outhouse Basement." But here's a little picture of Chad's character: When the student life people tasked one of their employees to move the equipment back downstairs (and were paying her to do so), she came in and asked for some help doing it (there was no way she could do it on her own). We told her the situation and about the smell in the downstairs room, and the student life people decided not to go through with the move. But the woman who was moving it was unhappy: she was hoping for the extra money... to buy her medication. Chad asked her how much student life was going to pay her, and promptly gave her $40 out of his wallet. That was just Chad for you.
Anyway, I was going to tell you about his intensity, not his generosity. We would push each other hard in the weight room, always with the threat of shame if one of us would back down. It was all about honor and shame in the weight room.
One summer Chad and I worked for "Bob" - who was dismantling his house and reconstructing it. We were mostly in charge of taking the brickwork off, because "Bob" wanted to save the bricks (if he used new bricks, he would have had mismatched brickwork). It was ridiculously slow, but it was fun working with Chad. We started the first day wearing long pants and sleeves and so forth, but by the third day, we were wearing shorts and shoes and nothing else. I ended up so tanned that in my Asbury directory picture that next year, I just looked like a smile.
We would be up on the roof with Sir Mix-a-Lot blaring from the system in Chad's rockin' Hyundai or 80s music playing (he was shocked and awed by the speed at which I was able to identify a Ray Parker Junior song - not Ghostbusters), cracking on "The Colonel" who lived next door, laughing at Bob's son (who got fired that summer, yes, by his dad), and idolizing the "real" construction workers who came in and did the real work.
There are too many awesome stories about that summer to tell, but once Chad left a hammer on top of a ladder, and it fell right on my head. Another time I dumped a whole bunch of brick and mortar chunks off the scaffold on Chad. We were tasked with digging a basement under the house and given a jackhammer for the day: Bob told us we could have a steak dinner if we got down 6'. By the end of the day we'd gotten down 1 1/2 feet. Yeah, he had to get some of the real construction guys to do that job (with a backhoe and a Bobcat).
Like I said, too many stories to tell.
Chad took an unconventional path. He was one guy who I believed when he told me that God had spoken to him verbally. That was part of his conversion story. Chad was baptized on the day he graduated from seminary.Chad's seminary job: bartender at my (hands-down) favorite Lexington restaurant. The others in the restaurant knew him as "the missionary." Which was what he was.
Today I got the news that Chad and his brother, Christopher (who I really only knew from meeting him once - he came out for a visit and played soccer with us. He was really good - oh, and I knew him from his picture on Chad's fridge. I spent a lot of time in Chad's apartment) died in a kayak accident.
His church is honoring him tomorrow (Sunday) morning.
My heart is broken at the loss of a friend. I miss you, Chad. Godspeed. Say Hi to Mike Yaconelli for me. And give Jesus a hug. I'll be along in what - in the face of eternity - will seem like a twinkling.