I’ve been thinking about my funeral recently. No, it hasn’t happened yet, that I know of, but unless God comes to take me home in grand rapture style (which He very well may!), I understand the reality that one day I will have one. It’s not that I’m even craving one, in particular, it’s just the cold reality that a funeral is in my future. Guess what, it’s in your future, too. But, I haven’t really thought much about yours.
As a pastor, I do funerals. I don’t necessarily like them, although many of the ones I’ve done have been joyous funerals. Truly, the person who died had lived a good and full life, they honored God with most of their breaths and when they died, they left behind years of physical pain and suffering. Losing someone like that is never easy, nor is watching close family members grieve, but those are joyous funerals filled with hope, good memories, and a gladness that the one who died is no longer suffering.
I’ve also done some pretty lousy ones, where the dead guy won’t be missed by many. I’ve done some where the family was so screwed up, or so caught up fighting about what was left over, that the funeral was merely a procedure that had to be carried out in order for the will to go into effect. Something about giving away a dude’s money before he’s really dead gets everybody all worked up!
This last week, I did a funeral for a woman who definitely fell into the first camp. She was a good woman who loved God and loved people. She was committed to God and to helping others find Him, and she showed her love for Him by loving others -- the very thing Jesus commanded His disciples to do. In a room with 120+ people, over 60 of them had lived in her house at one time or another, because she cared so much for them. She didn’t have much earthly wealth, but what little she had, she shared with anyone who had a need. She was stern and feisty, but she was compassionate and generous.
During her funeral service, we opened up the mic for people to share memories of Arlene. For 45 minutes, person after person got up and shared about her amazing love. They wept openly and publicly made promises to live in such a way as to fill the gap Arlene was leaving behind. After 45 minutes of sharing, I had to step back in and “take over”, or I still might be at that funeral service listening to people talk about the awesome qualities Arlene lived out.
After I finished her funeral, I took off for home and got to thinking: what would people say about me, at my funeral? Would the pastor have to get up after 45 minutes and say, “Ok, ok, ok, we know Joe blessed all of you in the room one way or another, but enough already! Let’s bury him and get to the free salad bar!” Or will there be an Awkward silence in the room as the pastor waits uncomfortably for someone to share something nice during the open mic portion of the service? Would my wife weep with joy and comfort as she heard amazing stories of touched lives? Or would my kids wonder, “What was my dad doing all those years he was ‘serving God?’” when no one stood up to share a thought?
My funeral planning starts today.
You see, it’s not that I want to have a funeral (at all!) that lasts days, but I want to live in such a way that peoples’ lives are touched. I want to live such a God-pleasing life that others have to notice and have to be challenged to do the same. And in order to please God, I must become a passionate lover of people! It’s not enough to life people, or to love the people who love me (I think Jesus had something to say about that!), but I must -- like Christ -- love the unlovely. I must learn to love those who have no affection for me, and I must choose to give myself up in true leadership, just as Jesus did.
The Overboard life is that kind of life. It’s a life that sacrifices ease and comfort to get out of the boat and to get out on the water where Jesus is doing His Kingdom work. When we live that kind of life, we will impact others along the way. LIke Arlene, we’ll leave a trail of lives touched because we chose to live for God, and not for ourselves.
I’m already planning funeral, how about you?
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!