Today one of my best friends buried his father.
I was there, at the funeral, although I have to admit I was hesitant to go. A new mother to a three-month-old baby girl, I thought she, and everyone else, would appreciate her absence. But, even though he was grieving his father’s death, our friend insisted that my husband and I bring her to be with him and his family.
We arrived at his parents’ home, unsure of how to greet him. We offered a hug that said "I’m sorry," a joke that implied we were there to make him smile too, and a baby that seemed like an unnecessary, albeit cute, accessory to the day’s events. Our friend ushered us into the house where he grew up and into a cozy sitting area that was filled with his family members.
But his welcome didn’t end there. It followed later with a place at a table for lunch alongside various sisters, cousins, and other family members who were grieving the loss of a godly, generous man whom I’d met only a few times. They greeted me warmly, cooed at my daughter, and made sure my stomach was full of Southern comfort food.
At the end of the day, my friend even escorted us to his parents’ master bedroom as an available, quiet place for my daughter’s naptime. We spoke softly when we entered. Not so much for our tired little one, but as not to disturb the intimate sadness that hung in the air of that room.
It’s overwhelming to accept kindness in the midst of an undeserving moment. It was true that this was the father of one of our closest friends, for whom we’d been praying throughout the year while he battled cancer. However, I didn’t expect, nor was I prepared for, the embrace of kindness that his family gave me during our visit.
I felt as if I was just a passersby who was suddenly pulled into a private gathering full of tight "family only" hugs, told stories as if I knew the very details myself, and invited to lay my sleeping infant next to a bed that had heard the tears of a grieving wife the night before. I accepted these incredible acts of kindness that day, but with difficulty. They felt so out of place. I should have been the one making my friend comfortable so he could grieve. He should have had me serve him a plate of food, or possibly entertain his children while he greeted visitors. But my family and I were, instead, the ones who were honored and accommodated.
Mulling over this irony later on the drive home, I asked my husband if he noticed how extremely kind everyone was to us amidst a day that really wasn’t ours.
"Yes," he replied. "We were introduced as family to Josh’s real family—and people received us just as that."
I agreed. It was so unconventional to be honored in such a way. However, because I know my friend so well, I knew the reason behind his character. It was simply a byproduct of the kindness he received from God.
Receiving God’s kindness hasn’t always been our forte as human beings. After all, biblical history proves that we haven’t welcomed Him into our lives very well. We saved rooms at the inn for those we thought were more important guests, not for a traveler and his pregnant companion. We pointed and mocked Him while He performed miracles. And we turned our back while He died innocently on a cross. But in His Divinity, He still sought us out, even to the point of showing up at our door to personally show us His nail-scarred hands.
I would think that would be enough. But yet, He still offers more. His Spirit motions for us to look back at the whispers about Him in the Old Testament. He yearns for us to accept His death as a sacrifice. And finally, He invites us to choose a life of intimacy with Him.
Admittedly, this invitation isn’t always my first priority in life. I often live from moment to moment. Sometimes my prayers are deliberate, and other times they slip out when I slam on my brakes to avoid an accident. My times with God can be quiet and reflective, or they can be a simple heart’s plea at the sight of those suffering from what’s left of a world tragedy.
But for those moments when I do take inventory of His kindness, I know I’m not just another person in the crowd. I am the woman whom He feels touch his cloak in desperation. I need His grace. I need His mercy. I need Him. Thankfully, being the kind Lord that He is, He stops, turns around, and ushers me into pure and holy worship. He does everything He shouldn’t have to do. He holds me close. He gives me the chance to grieve His suffering and death. He shows me to a designated chair at the "family only" banqueting table that celebrates eternal life. And finally, He empowers me with the confidence to lay my most precious treasures in His innermost care.
Today was not an easy day for anyone. But I will remember it as a day I experienced a part of the kindness Christ offers me. And as for my friend’s father, I think he would be proud to know his burial day was honored in such a way. Perhaps it was because his family knew they’d see him again, or maybe they were moved in remembering the grace in their own lives. Either way, there was worship in their unreserved kindness to me.