When her mother-in-law’s eulogy reveals beauty she had never glimpsed before, Jen Scheuermann is forced to reevaluate the way she views others.
Trying desperately to reconcile the stories being told with the woman I knew, I looked up and searched my mother-in-law’s face. And from the carefully selected, blown-up photograph next to her urn, she stared right back at me.
It’s no secret that our relationship had been a difficult one. We had little in common, and I often found her difficult to love. I suspect if you had asked her, she would have said the same of me. Regardless, for twenty-six years we found ourselves linked–not because we chose one another. Rather, because we both loved the same man: my husband, her son.
But as I sat alongside my husband and sons in the front row of her funeral, I found myself listening to a eulogy I hadn’t anticipated. This eulogy, given by her niece, painted a picture of a beautiful woman. A woman whose spirit revealed God’s overflowing generosity. And to be honest, a woman I’d never seen before. As I reflected on our often-strained relationship, the irony of this eulogy accosted me. You see, the traits others were elaborately praising were the very ones that so often annoyed me.
How was it that the specific traits I found so intrusive and irksome could sound so beautiful when described by another?
This is the question that harassed me for weeks following her funeral. And as I wrestled it, I was slowly drawn to evaluate my role in our relationship. And this led me to deeper–and harder–questions:
Why had I been unable to see my mother-in-law as her niece had?
Why had I been unable to see the beautiful way she reflected God’s love?
And if I was honest, did I think I had actually loved her the way Jesus calls us to love one another?
Jesus instructs us all to love our neighbors as ourselves. He instructs us to love our neighbors as He has loved us. This love is what the Church refers to as Charity, and as we carry out Jesus’ command, we make manifest God’s Love in the world.
Love my neighbor as myself??
Love my neighbor as Jesus has loved me??
This is fine and good when my neighbor is easy to love.
But how do I do this when my neighbor is I find difficult to love?
Sitting with all of these questions, I slowly realized I had spent years focusing on what I considered to be my mother-in-law’s more challenging personality traits. And this focus had prevented me from ever seeing anything else. Not once had I attempted to see the way she imaged God’s Love. And I never saw God in her because I never looked for God in her. Admitting this about myself filled me with guilt and sorrow. But the realization that I had missed the opportunity to love God through loving her, or to receive His love through her, gave way to grief and heartache.
Scripture tells us each person has been created in God’s image and likeness. The sad truth, though, is that we’ve all been wounded by this world, and as a result, the way we reflect His image is all too often warped. So if we’re not intentional about looking for God in others, there’s a really good chance we won’t see Him.
With absolute certainty, I know the love I offer needs great purification. But I suspect I’ll only be able to love others as Jesus calls me to when I’m first able to look at the person in front of me and see beyond their broken humanity. And then, with great intention—and even greater Grace—when I view each person through a lens that seeks to discover the beauty of God within, beauty that exists simply because they were made in God’s image. Because I think it is only when I can see God in my neighbor that I’ll truly be able to love with Charity.
Copyright 2022 Jennifer Scheuermann
About the Author
While living out her vocations of marriage, motherhood, and health care provider, Jen is often found on the sidelines of a ball game, searching for shade while cheering on her sons. An early riser, she sits with Jesus while it’s still dark and blogs about their conversations at Early Morning Coffee With Jesus. Get to know her more on Instagram or Facebook.