I attended a funeral last week. An amazing man… long, long life…. survived trials in family, business, health… yet never wavered from his faith.
Even years ago when his wife died mere weeks after diagnosis, leaving him with 3 young kids, he never wavered. Even when his thriving business took a staggering blow in the recession of the early 1980’s, and he was forced to sell his mansion…. yes, mansion… nobody even knew why he sold it and saw no sign in him and his second wife that they were in financial peril.
His countenance, attitude, and behaviours didn’t change one bit through these and other adversities. He continued to reach out to others through it all. Share the gospel, invite someone over for a meal, pray with someone, cry with someone, laugh with someone, love someone, sooth someone, mentor someone. He didn’t miss a beat through any of it.
His funeral drew a packed crowd. Standing room only. And it was a Pentecostal Funeral if ever there was one! All the old hymns and choruses popular in Pentecostal culture from the 1950’s on up to today. I was immersed in this culture in the mid 1980’s when I first came to believe. It was so rich in tradition, I had a hard time feeling part of because I didn’t understand how to do their style. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.
But there at the funeral of one of the most amazing and respected men I have ever known, were all of the mannerisms and behaviours of Pentecostal culture…. the hands waving, the well-dressed Pastor leading worship, the “amen!”s, the preaching, the testimonies, the phrases, …. and for anyone who has been to a Pentecostal service…. you know, what we call, “The swaying prayer ball”?…. you know when a group gathers around to lay hands on and pray for someone at the front…. and it goes on and on and the whole group connected by hands on shoulders begins to sway side to side in unison?
The funeral went on for hours. It was strange and wonderful. Strange in that I have not been a part of that culture for many years and was reminded why I no longer am. I just don’t relate, I just don’t get it.
Yet wonderful in so many senses. These people were zealous! These people were connected! These people loved God and each other. Wow! And like the man we were there to honour, the room was filled with so many amazingly selfless people who, although I am a bit of a stray sheep to their organizations and culture, beamed when we met again after so many years.
One particular, who knew all about my antics of my spin-out years ago, a successful man, a wise man, a strong and caring man, took time to tell me from the heart how great it was to see me again, made my wife feel welcome, and …. well simply treated me with an amazing amount of kindness and love.
It was quite a day indeed. It has been bouncing around my head for days. Such a duality my allergy to the culture yet affection for the people.
Not yet sure what God is saying to me…. as I sit here listening to… of all things, gospel recordings by George Jones…. don’t ask me why…. but maybe I relate to the riotous-living Jones who seems to have returned to the faith of his youth…. maybe I trust another stray sheep?
But whatever the reason…. I think God is trying to show me something. Wow…. what an odd season these past few days.
It brings to mind a saying that my dear friend, the man who had passed away, told many times. The brilliant businessman who had mentored my friend in the 1950’s and 60’s, whenever he got into a pickle or was going through something he didn’t understand, “Won’t it be exciting to see what God does with this one!”.
Well God, I’m excited! Looking forward to what you’re doing with this one.