*originally written June 23, 2014*
In the last few days I’ve had the fortunate unfortunate opportunity to witness two families go through death of a dear one. One death left behind a young man who’s now the man of the house. The other leaving behind a family who will never hear his tiny voice cry or laugh. In these deaths I saw the beauty of Life.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20 ESV
A young man, now fatherless, stood awkwardly in a suit and tie. Overnight, he’s been forced to become the man of the house, feeling the responsibility for the care and protection of his mother. This afternoon, he has already assumed this role. Standing tall, ready to receive guests, shaking hands, accepting condolences. A group he recognizes arrives, teens dressed carefully, not sure whether to smile or seem sad. One by one, they shake his hand, hug him tight, offer their quiet, broken, uncertain words of comfort. They smile when he smiles, nods when he does, not sure about what they’re supposed to do with themselves. And then it happens. A tall, graying man, wearing a jacket and tie, puts his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Let’s pray,” he says quietly, breaking the awkward silence. It’s as though life has been injected into the group of teens. Without hesitation, without question, and with confidence, each teen puts his or her arm around the classmate to the left and right. Heads bow. Hands tighten. Eyes close. The man in the jacket and tie prays. He prays for comfort, he gives thanks for life, he asks for guidance. It’s simple. There’s nothing particularly eloquent about the words that are spoken, but for that moment, for the time that his voice is speaking, this awkward, uncertain group of teens has become one. They are united in hearing a petition placed before the Almighty Father, a petition asking for one of their own to have only what the Father can give.
Matthew 18:20 lives.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:15-18 ESV
Sunday morning. There’s nothing remarkable about this particular Sunday morning in June. Blue sky. Hot. And yet as the people gathered, even among the greetings and smiles, handshakes and hugs, there’s a heaviness, a brokenness.
The night before, a few couples, some with their children, gather at a house. There’s laughter in this house. There are smiles and stories, the low rumble of conversations and a table where meals have been prepared and eaten. In between the laughter, the smiles, and the stories, there are hugs, shoulder squeezes. Tight ones. Hugs that say to one another, “I’m walking with you,” or “Don’t let go, I’m here,” or “I’m praying for you.” In this house, Love abounds. Everywhere. Even now, in the unexpected absence of the new life they had been expecting, Love lives here. The people who are here are living in a Love unexplainable, a promised Love from One who has promised He would come to them. It’s the only explanation for the smiles through the tears, the hope through grief, the love through the death.
The Sunday service is all but over. The lights are dim. The brokenness and sadness palpable. A simple gesture, a simple request, to take the hand of the person beside. A voice prays, asking for guidance and comfort, but with gratitude and hope. In the unbroken chain of hands, His Holy Spirit lives.
John 14:15-18 lives.