Two funerals last week of close friends of more than 40 years were not what I planned to do in a busier-than-usual week. But funerals are never convenient; we go with the flow.
Both funerals were at the same church across town with the same spectacular music ministry from our covenant community. I put aside my plans and entered into the reverent spirit of the wake and funeral services. They were celebrations of the lives of the beloved deceased. The Holy Spirit was alive in the prayers and singing of the congregation and united it in the Spirit. I was more than content to be there honoring the deceased and supporting the families I know and love. Each service was a little hint of heaven, and I felt I was contributing to the consolation of the family just by showing up.
Drastic mood change
But on the long drive home from the first wake and Mass, my mood changed drastically. I was tense and cross and generally “out of sorts” the closer I got to home and all the commitments left undone.
I woke up the morning of the second funeral repentant of my lack of gratitude and charity. During my short prayer time at sunrise, I realized that while I was at the rosary and Mass services -- worshipping the Lord, listening to the sharings, saying the rosary and participating in Mass -- my spirit was one with the Lord. I experienced a new awareness of the presence of the Lord. What a rare gift! So much more valuable than anything I could achieve anywhere on my own.
How could I be so ungrateful as to allow the enemy to steal the joy of that loving presence that took me away from all my cares for a precious time with the Lord? The thought came that during that holy time I was vulnerable enough to let the Lord love me as only he can.
I took in the grandeur of the sunrise above the traffic on the one-mile bridge spanning the lake. I let the Lord love me through his beautiful sunrise above the busy world. I resisted my inclination to focus on the moving headlights of the cars and trucks approaching our side of the lake. I breathed in the presence of the Lord in the lavender and orange clouds laced with gold that God’s loving hand painted in the sky for all to see. I breathed out my frustration with the impossible expectations on my schedule and gave them all to him.
Commitment to show up
I know that I can never accomplish anything on my to-do list by myself. How many times have I put something on that list that wasn’t mine to do, or not at the time I scheduled it. God doesn’t love me because of what I do but because of who I am in him. I become who he created me to be when I let him love me. The commitment that makes anything I do worthwhile is the commitment to show up with an open heart and let God love me -- whether showing up for a funeral or a dinner party.
[Tweet "I become who God created me to be when I let him love me."]
He loves me through nature. Often I’m too distracted to accept his love quietly displayed in his creation, whether it’s the sunrise over a busy toll road or stars over a noisy stadium. I brush past people that God wants to use to love me. His love doesn’t affect me any more than the glorious sunrise when I’m focusing on the worldly, from the cars on the bridge to the next to-do item.
Funerals help me stop and realize that we are here to love each other. God can use tragedies to fill us with his love, if we let him. When we let down our defenses, God fills our love banks with his presence. That’s our deepest need. That’s the best comfort we can give to the grieving family.
When have you showed up with an open heart to let God love you?
About the Author
Nancy Ward authored Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies (and the DVD) and contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She loves to share her conversion story and give evangelization workshops and retreats equipping others to share their faith. She facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers, Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique Group, serves on their Board, and speaks at writers’ conferences. Learn more at JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com.