It is a weary end of the day here in Humphrey.
I am sitting in a comfy chair, thinking of all that has transpired in the last few days.
Just a little while ago we were in a Conference in WI when a call came that one of our church members had been in an accident and went to heaven. He was in his 60's and truthfully, I was not well acquainted with him. He usually came on Sunday mornings, sat in the back and was out before I had finished my nursery responsibilities. I did talk to him a few times only to notice that he was uneasy and uncomfortable doing so. So.... when I did see him, I would smile and thank him for coming, but never pressed him for information even regarding the simplest things, like the weather for instance.
It was Joel's first funeral. I think we all were nervous. It went well, he knew the Lord and surely was too busy enjoying his time with the Lord to even notice we stopped to place his body in the ground.
A few days later we got a call from the Rehab place where he frequented asking if we would hold a "Memorial Service" for him. What an opportunity this would be for us. A government institution and the gospel do not usually mix, and when they give occasion to, it is a matter of prayer.
So we went. We smiled, we met people and then it began to happen.
A man in almost high heel boots and 70's pants made his way to us. He announced to us that he was one of the "Soloists." Oh me. Remember at this juncture will you, that I am a terrible phony. I cannot hide anything, so this was getting hard for me. Deep down I thought, "Ok mister, YOU are the soloist? I am too and we shall see...." and even a little "Lord, help me not to laugh at this moment!"
He told us he was a friend of our deceased church member and how he took the news rather hard.
I am nodding and listening, trying not to look at the boots and pants individually let alone as an ensemble that any person should be legally allowed to wear.
We got to the meeting room where all of the friends of his were gathering that also happened to be their cafeteria that also happened to be dirty.
Very dirty. Again smiling, greeting, nodding, "Oh really?-ing".... doing the Pastor's Wifely duty.
I met another soloist. She was short and sweet and I liked her until she told us she was going to sing the Ave Maria.
I have not previously mentioned that this facility was for the Mentally/Emotionally challenged, and so at this announcement I thought, "Is she really meaning that or a little confused?"
She was a-meanin'-it. Full Italian, no subtitles, no music, you got it.
Now I have some semblance of a sense of humor, but this is beginning to get downright agitating. They should leave the "Memorial" thing to us professionals!
Person after person file in this already crowded room, I feel smothered. Anna puts her mouth on the table, I cringe. One lady in a large stocking cap takes it as her life's mission to make SURE everyone has a little program of the service, I wince. One man mumbles to me the same thing over and over, another lady to my right keeps asking me my name. In the middle of almost a mental breakdown, a lady rather elderly comes and asks me curtly if I want a cup of coffee. I fudge a smile and decline not too graciously. I mean, one only has so much graciousness.
The service begins. I am hot, nervous, trying to keep Nathan and Anna from touching the table too much, shaking hands too much, wanting Joel to hurry.... not wanting to tell the lady next to me my name for the hundredth time, and for goodness sakes, NO ONE needs another program, PLEASE sit down lady in the back!
Then it was as if I began looking through some else's eyes. We sang hymns. The sound of these voices, voices people in "normal" society have been taught to drowned out, began to reach the bottom of my sinful, wicked heart. The first soloist sang," When the Roll is Called up Yonder." We all sang along at the chorus, our voices swelling to fill the room. His voice was shaky, filled with emotion, it burned my heart. The second soloist stood and sang this Italian, difficult song with a soft whisper-like alto voice that made us all strain to hear each word. She had us all captivated by her unassuming way of trying to just be a help to those around her in this, their time of loss. The loss of their friend. Someone who, like them, understood being misunderstood.
Then each person who wanted to, stood and gave a testimony of this man. THIS MAN whom I was beginning to learn a lot more about through his death that I never knew in life.
The service begins, Joel is consoling and I feel my heart burning with shame. Will I never learn? Will I keep up this pride and try to slip out after everything is over?
No. No I won't.
Before I know it, it is MY turn to sing.
I slink out of my chair and feel as if every soul can see the blackness of my heart. Will they cringe at me like I them?
No. No they won't.
I meet eyes. They widen, brighten, and give me a glimpse into hearts yearning for real friendship. I sing and as I do I try to apologise with my eyes. Stanza after Stanza.
Did they see it? Get it?
I spent the rest of our time there hugging, helping serve coffee to people and look each one in the eye and smile. I touch an arm of a man who is beaten down. I am beaten down too, inside. I am trying to be maybe the only Jesus that this man will ever know. I get him his coffee, help him put the cream back, as he shakes.
Inside I cry, I want to stay and make it up to them.
I want to serve these people,
the Ugly Beautiful.
I hug more, smile more, serve more, and listen. Always there is listening.
And while I listen I am in all wonder at the change of events.
At the switch that has taken place. Those who were the Ugly are now the Beautiful.
Those who were pious and Beautiful are now the Ugly.
I went to the restroom to gather my thoughts and flooding emotions. The Holy Spirit met me and whispered, "the least of these....."
"you have done it unto me."
Look how I have treated you, Lord. He knows. He saw the change in me though. He prays for me, and nothing can ever separate me from His love for me.
Or separate them from His love for them.
We leave and a woman who was shy comes and envelopes me in a hug. She rushes off. She has been pacing, wanting to hug me and finally worked up enough courage. I am glad she did. It is I who should be shying away and not her. A man comes and gives Nathan a wad of money from "The group." He tells him in a whisper to give it to his dad. It is an offering from them all.
I left feeling so ugly, but so thankful that God got a hold of me before it was too late to shower them with His love.
The Ugly Beautiful.