The sun shone bright and the day was full of the promise of spring as our cars converged on the small church standing at the side of a quiet country road. It was a glorious day for our purpose: remembering someone who would have loved to be there but who had more pressing business in heaven.
The gathering was informal and simple, just staff of the agency that had supported the person as well as his friends and family. We simply sang songs that were his favourites and shared our memories.We laughed, and wiped away some tears and we all left with more than we came with.
I loved all of the stories, but two shared by one of his support staff stuck with me. To understand them you need to know two things: he loved to sing and was irrepressible if the moment called for song, and he had an intellectual disability. At one event they were at, he left his seat, mounted the podium and took the microphone. Then he sang the song, "Jesus Loves Me," and his staff said there was not a dry eye in the room. He and his staff would go grocery shopping together each week and while she paid the cashier, he would pack the groceries as they came down the belt--all the while singing his favourite hymn, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" at the top of his voice. One day a customer said to her, nodding to the loud singer, "We need more of that."
Later as we had refreshments and chatted, someone said with a sigh, "Well, he's normal now that he's in heaven." Inside my heart cried out, "No!" at the thought, because after all, we had just celebrated someone we all loved so much for who he was, and "normal" sounded to me like a downgrade. I wish I had said that, but instead I just made a little joke, and said, "And we will be too," and everyone laughed and agreed that we were far from "normal" now ourselves.
After I left, I couldn't stop thinking of the words of the customer at the grocery store: We need more of that. Yes we do.
Most of us struggle for much of our lives with self esteem and self acceptance. How different would it be if each child heard and felt from the start and every day of their lives, the benediction spoken by that customer?
I would love to think that when God gazes at us, what he thinks is, "We need more of that." That while we are always "in process," being more closely conformed to his image; not one of our basic building blocks--how we are intrinsically made--is defective or broken but exactly what the world needs more of.
And if only we could let truth that sink into our soul--the assurance of our own perfect "belovedness," that he gazes at us with adoration and love we cannot even comprehend--it would just have to burst out, spill over, and envelope the world around us....and wouldn't that be wonderful to have more of?