Part of any preacher’s job is performing funerals for friends and loved ones. While the ceremonies are always difficult, they are made much easier when the deceased has lived a faithful, Christian life. On Monday, I traveled back to my hometown to remember a sweet lady who passed away at the age of 84 after many years of poor health. In fact, I did not actually get to know her until she was elderly and always saw her as the prototypical grandmother. As I began preparing for the service, I was struck by some of the things that I heard from friends and family.
The funny anecdote I came up with for my portion of the service was remembering how she always claimed the front handicap spot at the church building, yet I was being told of how she went horseback riding, cruised around the countryside on a motorcycle, and hopped on a plane to California with no notice just to see the sights. This sweet little lady who I only knew when she walked on a cane, had once been a young, vibrant, spontaneous woman, and I knew absolutely nothing about it. Similarly, her brother-in-law, also a minister, spoke during the service about her life as an older sibling and a mother – things that were in the rearview mirror before I ever knew her.
Throughout the service, I could not help but think about my own funeral and what the preacher might say. When I leave this world will someone like me be speaking at my service, someone that only knew me as an old man? What was even more alarming is that very few people truly know what makes us tick. No one knows our real passions! At my funeral, I might be remembered as a big sports fan, a firearms enthusiast, or someone who loves watching people fall down. These are all things that I enjoy, but these are not my real passions. The things I hold dear to my heart are God’s Word and his people, the inexpressible love that I have for my wife, the desire for my friends and family to be happy – this is what “makes me tick.” Perhaps one of my preacher friends will know that and share it at my funeral, but they might not and that’s okay.
As a young(er) preacher I worried that I might not be able to fully honor someone’s memory at their funeral. As I have gotten a little older I worry that my own obituary will be filled with insignificant tidbits about me and my funeral will not be an accurate representation of my life. I have come to realize, though, that the WAY we live is much more important than the things said about us after we are gone. I love the words of C.H. Spurgeon:
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”
This week I have been reminded that a life well-lived is not marked by a glamorous funeral filled with eloquent eulogies, it is characterized by the impact we make on the lives of others. Further, the things we do for others must be motivated by what God has done for us. Consider the words of 1 John 4:7-12:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
I hope that we will all remember that the success of our time here is measured by whether we have lived according to the precepts of the Almighty. Within God’s plan for our lives is the clear command to “do good unto all men.” I do not know what will be said at my funeral, but the only words that I am concerned with are “welcome, good and faithful servant.”