by Cindy Stiverson
This may sound morbid, but I truly enjoy performing funerals.
It's one of the things I miss most about being the pastor of a congregation: the honor of being included in the main events of people's lives. Births. Dedications. Baptisms. Communion. Crisis. Weddings. Funerals. Rites, rituals, sacraments. Walking through life's ups and downs as Christ's ambassador, loving on the families He has placed in our lives. Leading, loving on, the local body of Christ.
This week I had the privilege of performing a funeral for a woman I had never met. I only really knew one person there and only for six months. I had only met that person's husband once, who happened to be the son of the deceased. They were my only connection to this family. Yet, I walked away from the cemetary feeling as though my "family" had just expanded to include the forty or fifty people who gathered that day to say good-bye to their loved one.
I enjoy interacting with friends and family members as they share memories. Funny things that stick out in their minds. The attitudes, the famous quotes, the personality quirks, the things they loved about the deceased. In the midst of grief, there's so much laughter and celebration of who this person was, what they stood for, and how they live on in various ways. There's always a grandchild who "looks just like them" or a child who "acts like them" or a sibling who was "so close they could be twins".
Taking all of these things to heart, I return home to begin reconstructing the life of their dearly beloved into a message that will soothe the aching heart. Being an artist, these rank among the most beautiful works of art I have produced in my lifetime. Christ is in the midst of it, reminding me of the perfect passages of scripture to weave in, making it a masterpiece of love, sharing His heart for this family. And, in the end, always leading them to His side in their loss, always reminding them of the cross.
Sometimes it's a frightening thing to stand before a group of people, not knowing their hearts, not knowing how they will receive such a message. Knowing they have asked you to come and "say a few short words" (this always makes my heart smile), but are probably hoping you will do just that, nothing more. But, my boss is my Creator: the one who has numbered our days. My responsibility is to turn hearts toward Him. It's beautiful when hearts are open and truly do turn.
Such was the response in this case. A sweet, sweet spirit filled the room. Hearts were attentive, open, warmed by the words the Lord had given me. We lapped up the Living Water. We partook of the Bread of Life. Together, we celebrated this life and grieved this death. We hugged. We cried. We laughed. We grieved. Thanking me over and over, they praised this piece of art the Lord and I had penned. And our hearts became a melting pot of God's love.
"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (I John 4:9-12NLT)."
I pray that you will live in love. I pray that if you've lost a special loved one, that God will be as close as your heart!
|Cynthia K (Cindy) Stiverson|
I am a speaker, writer, artist and an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. I lead the women at NewarkNaz in Newark, Ohio. In 1998, God gave me a vision for Woven: Women of Virtue Network. It's a blessing to be involved in so many women's lives. Sometimes I think my heart will burst.
So very thankful for my hubby Mark. Extremely proud of my daughter speaker/author Nicole and son-in-law Matthew Bromley. Love my grandsons Jude and Isaac beyond measure.
Loving God with all my heart, soul, strength; and loving and leading others to do the same is the greatest joy of my life.