Funerals Teach Us How To Live

My son has a hard time sitting still, but there he was, barely moving, his eyes fixated on the screen at the front where a slideshow was playing of photos of his great uncle, from toddler, to young man, to grinning groom in a 70’s wedding tux, to father, to grandfather, to middle age, to the skinny, yet joyful, man he knew, a man who fought pancreatic cancer for many years, astonishing his doctors.

There is something to hearing it; how the deceased is remembered, what stood out about them and the way they lived their lives, what made them dear and irreplaceable.

I heard many good words today; I saw men wiping away tears, I saw a good man remembered and mourned.

I was glad to remember him, and glad too that my children and I could hear the accounting of him by others who knew him in other spheres of life.  I am glad we heard what makes an impression on folks around us, and what clearly doesn’t.  There was nothing about his looks or his clothes or his car; nothing about his net worth.  We heard how he loved others, how he enjoyed the people around him, how in the midst of suffering he served, how he trusted God, and how he never complained, no matter how bad it got.

These aren’t words for the wind.

They are meant to be caught, and chewed, and swallowed; they’re meant to become part of us and how we live our days, so that, by God’s mercy, our own funerals may one day serve to point toward the good and holy way for the ones we leave behind.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

-Psalm 90:12

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Affirm My Narrative, Please.

The priest said that he had only ever met the victims.  He wondered where all these crummy types were who were willfully hurting, using, and oppressing his parishioners.  It seems they were all elsewhere; he’d only met the people grievously injured by them, righteously bearing their crosses of undeserved suffering.

The most dangerous thing you can do in a relationship is to challenge someone’s narrative; to challenge their story about themselves, however gently you might do so.  Our narratives are tailor-made, and the tailor is too often deceived.  We remember with affection all the good we do (or intend to do, someday); we glance away from our errors, our sins, the ways we’ve pained others, besides, we remember how provoked we were, and really, it’s understandable.  If only people knew how much we constrained ourselves they’d appreciate our self-control.  Too often our friends nod comfortingly, they empathize, they echo back to us, and they soothe.  It’s seen as the good office of the friend, to be supportive no matter what.  Affirm my narrative, please.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

-Proverbs 27:6

As iron sharpens iron,  so a friend sharpens a friend.  

-Proverbs 27:17

 

What a good and painful gift it is to have a friend who lovingly dares to pierce our narrative; to say, “No, the plot did not twist in that way; you were at fault and you remain so.”  Then we have to play back the reel, removing our pride-tinted glasses and/or our blinders.  We, if we are brave and humble even for a moment, have to see our narrative ring false.  If we can bear that without shoveling excuses or justifications over our turned shoulders, we approach honesty, then guilt, then repentance.

But it could, and it often does happen, that instead we dig in our heels; we believe our narrative as infallible.  We regard the wounding friend as the enemy; we see their words as weapons and not instruments of healing.  We seek and find a soothing balm in understanding friends; ones on “our side”.

The friend who dared, who risked on our behalf to enlighten our darkness; they are left to watch us carry on in most-certain wrongheadedness and willful pride.  They have a double portion of hurt, for they offered in love to help us see that which was destroying us.  They tried to deliver the medicine for the sickness; unpleasant medicine, to be sure, but needful.  They were then wounded in turn, in anger, for daring to question our narrative.

Lord have mercy on us and make us humble; finding in the wounds of a friend Your own loving correction and faithful leading.  Make us brave to see clearly, and to love fully.408196_10151676557058352_643068089_n