"There is no place where earth's sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth's failings
Have such kindly judgment given."
Faber, as quoted by Hannal Whittal Smith in "A Christian's Secret to a Happy Life"
I had occasion to attend a funeral this week. This one hit me a little differently than I expected. I didn't know the man well. He was the husband of a coworker and my entire relationship with him had existed only by telephone and every one of those conversations had been short and directly to the point. I had formed my little opinions of who I thought he was, as we humans are wont to do with our very limited bits of information.
At his funeral I learned so much more about him. The pastor had known him for a very long time and made no secret of the struggle with depression which had dogged him for many years. He talked about how the man was faced with many choices over the years - how he had longed to just check out and go home - but that he had over and over again chosen to live, no matter how difficult the living was. He talked about the relationship he had with God, how he leaned heavily into his strength, and how in spite of the depression, this man was a prayer warrior. The pastor had called him many times to ask him to pray and he took on each request with seriousness and a heart of compassion. The pastor counted on him for that.
His sons rose to speak, one of them reading something their sister had written, both of them sharing from their own hearts. It was clear this man had raised children who feel deeply - poets and thinkers, all three. That said something, too.
I thought about how I had seen this man and how he was being presented now. I realized my vision had been so clouded. I'd seen little of him, yet I'd made judgements. I thought, as I sat there in the pew, about how this service must be a very close representation of how God saw this man and realized that is how I wished I had seen him, too. If only I'd seen him as God did... I wondered if that would have been possible and what might have been different about our conversations if I had.
The pastor told how the man had been scheduled for heart surgery the week before, but it had to be canceled due to a cold. God had other plans, the pastor said. After many times, making the choice to live through his pain, this time the choice was taken out of his hands. It was time for him to come home. Home to where there is no more sadness, no depression, only the fulness of joy.
He died in his chair. He appeared to be sleeping and there was a look of peace on his face, they said. The pastor told us that he often prayed in that chair, and he had reason to believe he was praying that Sunday evening as God gently took him home.
What a way to go.
It made me think, this funeral did. About how I want God to open my eyes to see people the way he sees them and only the way he sees them... I've clearly been missing too much.
" ...and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2