This series is about our life with the church as we attempt to live together as brothers and sisters. (For a more detailed description of this series, see my post “Church Life – A New Series.”)
The last few weeks have been emotionally draining for me and my family. Margaret, my wife, has been sick for a couple of weeks, and is still trying to shake a lingering cough.
Then, as I wrote in my post “Has it really only been 24 hours,” a friend of ours took his life just over a week ago. (I’ll call him J.) We met him about a year ago as we spend time in “The Neighborhood.” In the last week, I’ve spent time with some of his family members and talked to others on the phone.
His aunt is a good friend of our from the Neighborhood. She asked if I would speak about J. during his funeral service. The funeral home chaplain was conducting the service, but the family wanted someone that knew J. to speak as well. I agreed.
I talked to J.’s aunt about what I wanted to say, and I spoke with the chaplain. He was happy to work me into the service, since he didn’t know J.
Everything was going fine until 10 minutes before I was planning to leave my office to drive to the funeral. The funeral home chaplain called me and said, “Something has come up. I can’t do J.’s funeral. Can you do it?”
I didn’t know the plans. I didn’t know what music the family wanted. I didn’t know if anyone else was speaking. But, of course, I agreed to do the service.
Why? Because I loved J. and I loved his family. I’m especially close to his aunt, and I wanted to do anything that I could for them.
I talked about J. and his aunt and spending time with them. I talked about their love for one another and their family. I talked about how J. trusted God in spite of the darkness and pain of his life. I reminded them about how King David struggled with the pain of life as well, but was still a man after God’s own heart.
I encouraged the family to love one another and to trust God during this time. I agreed with them that we didn’t understand why J. would choose to take his own life. But, I also told them that we can trust God in spite of our lack of understanding. I reminded them of the good news that we have in Jesus Christ.
After the service (which was short), several family members thanked me for speaking about J. They said that they could tell that I knew him, and they really appreciated what I said.
I was talking on the phone with J.’s aunt a couple of days later and she said, “Our family was talking about what you said at J.’s funeral. We really needed to hear what you said. We’ve decided that you’re now a member of the family.”
I can’t think of a better compliment. I’m praying that God allows me to spend more time with my new family, helping them (and being helped by them) trust God and follow Jesus. For me, this is part of church life.
(Some of my regular readers know that our family has been frustrated in our desires to get to know our neighbors better. It turns out that two of J.’s family members live in our neighborhood. Please pray for continued interaction with them.)