I don’t enjoy funerals. I suppose there aren’t too many people who would say that they do. However, I recently went to the funeral of my husband’s great uncle, and I was surprised by the way I was impacted by this particular service. I was not fortunate enough to have met his uncle, but I felt as though I knew him by the end of the service. He was described as a quiet man. He might only say “good morning” in a meeting, but he was always a dependable and attentive attendee. I found myself relating to his quiet nature. As someone who doesn’t always say much, I was encouraged to hear that spoken words are not always required to impact people’s lives.
The pastor went on to tell funny stories and comments on the man’s character. He also allowed a few moments for the congregation to share their memories and thoughts. Throughout the service, the phrase “spiritual giant” was used. Family members and friends told about how they never heard him say anything negative about anyone. He was not one to complain or to get angry. Others mentioned that he was like a second father to them. His daughter’s coworker commended his character because she could see the good influence he had on his children.
After the service, I began to reflect on how I would love to be remembered like my husband’s uncle, and I realized that I was far from the lofty description he was given. I thought about how I often complain and how I need to be more positive in my thoughts about others. While I try to avoid gossip, when engaging with the general public, I find myself using the excuse that I am venting when I complain about my frustrations with people. I mean, I won’t ever see these people again, right? As much as I would like to be remembered as someone who was positive and who didn’t say anything negative about people, I certainly have significant work to do.
My husband’s uncle must have viewed people like Jesus did for his loved ones to be able to say that they never heard him gossip in the 30+ years they knew him. I imagine his words were kind toward everyone whether or not he would ever see them again. It sounded like he followed the example of Jesus who was treated in a horrific way that I have never come close to experiencing. Instead of “venting” about how these awful people had severely abused Him physically and verbally, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He was able to continue loving people even when they treated Him horribly.
Hearing about this one man’s character, I realized how we risk allowing anger and bitterness to fester when we complain, even if it is under the guise of venting. It isn’t good to bottle up negative emotions. However, we should still “[l]et all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). In order to get rid of anger and frustration, we have to first recognize them and then get rid of them. It sounded like this man understood that.
It’s amazing how simply hearing about someone’s life can have such an effect on someone else. Here was someone who had impacted me even after his time on Earth. I am far from being a “spiritual giant” and will probably never get there. However, I can only hope to be remembered as someone who followed Jesus and in the way He lived and loved others.
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