Recently we attended the wake of the mother of an old friend. The inevitable place we all end up, burying our parents, and accepting that time passes, we age and this life is so short and fragile. As we gathered at the funeral home we wondered how the evening would go. In the early 1990s our friend lived with us for two years after returning from a 4 year mission trip to New Zealand. During the time he lived with us we transitioned from a large church to a smaller inner city work that was reviving ministry in an old neighborhood. So the friends that came last night were a blending of a few churches, over a span of years. It was a bit surreal to see them all together. And to see how the years have been, how life has changed us, molded us, directed us, aged us.
At some point last night the realization settled in again that people come and go from our lives. Some are meant to be there for a long time, others for a short while. Some are meant to be cheerleaders of our life, encouragers, bringing words of strength, or wisdom. Others are meant to drive us to our knees, keeping us in prayer, and introspectively looking at our lives to fine tune. Old friends, able to pick up conversation where it last left off – yes that was nice. But some of those memories of why our lives took different paths began to come into view. The strong willed personalities that refuse to believe anyone else has any place in speaking about life. Oddly that same emotion of perceiving that nothing I say would be heard came flooding back again from those many years ago. Differences in how we respect and uphold each other was clear. . And the person who was so negative that even saying hello took us to dark places… aha, moving on could be a good thing. But what could leave some people stuck in a patch of negative 24/7 thoughts? Is life so harsh that you cant stop for a moment to say something lifegiving?
Last night I found myself sitting before the lord and asking him to clarify and bring to my memory any ways I was not a life giving believer last night. Funeral homes are difficult for so many people, or at least awkward at best. We prayed we would bring hope and comfort to those grieving, and words that speak life into their souls. And I think we did that. And we prayed that we would offer hope and encouragement to old friends who have taken different paths, gone to different churches, or remained while we moved on.
I dont want to rose color paint life’s memories but likewise i think it is human nature to either focus on the positive always, ignoring blatant stressful things, or the very opposite… getting stuck where everything is negative, and just being around such people exhausts us. In that short time of visiting people from the past I realized again how critically the world needs people who are encouragers, life givers, who choose to speak peaceful things, supportive things, encouraging each other.
A long time ago my mom told me that you never know what people are carrying with them or going through, and often the person who is the most kind and encouraging has learned to be this way through deep sorry and struggle with life. As a child that was lost to me, but as i age i see the virtue of the statement.
So this is my prayer for today, and beyond:
Lord, take my mind, my heart, my lips, my tongue, my fingers- may each effort to communicate with others be filled with kindness, grace, and love. May others see in me the very presence of Christ in me, which is the hope of glory, and as each encounter ends may there be life, hope, refreshment and joy. May me that instrument of peace, and use my lips, my tongue, my fingers to express your grace, your love, your passionate pursuit of us.
Lord forgive me for judgemental thoughts about old friends. Help them to grow strong, live strong in you, and grant them large measures of love and grace. Thank you that you are teaching me daily about grace, and your wonderous mercy. Amen