The time I felt most loved by the body of Christ didn’t take place in a church, it took place in a funeral home.
Most of the mourners had cleared out. My husband and brothers were pall bearers , and I was an honorary pall bearer, and as such we were waiting to escort the body out.
As the funeral directors began to close the coffin, I looked at my husband , and said “ I don’t think I can do this.”
I have done many difficult things in my life, things that required true courage and bravery.
I’ve given birth four times, I nearly died from a stoke at 26, buried my beloved stepfather two weeks before my 8th birthday….
So looking back now, I find it odd that this was the thing that almost shattered me. I knew my grandpa, his soul, the essence that made him, him, was gone. I knew the part we were about to bury was simply a shell.
But in that moment I was feeling very attached to that particular shell and couldn’t bear the thought of it going into the ground.
My knees started to buckle of their own accord, and Zach swooped in and grabbed my hand and stood in my left, partially blocking my view.
And then in an instant my brothers surrounded me.
My brothers are all very different men. And I have played the role of Bossy Big Sister , to the hilt, for almost my entire life. But in that moment, I was completely helpless, and they carried me.
You don’t know my brothers, so in order to paint the picture for you, I decided to assign tv characters to them.
I would say the oldest is like Walker Texas Ranger. He’s kind, funny, and has an impressive mustache. He’s a man of firmly held convictions. Truth matters deeply to him, and he’s also a talented writer, and all around creative. He’s always marched to the beat of his own drum. When we were little, no one could make me laugh like him. As a fellow believer, I take great comfort in his faith, and solace in the fact that he’s raising my nephew in the church.
My next brother , is a bit like Superman. He is a foot and some change taller than me, muscled, with lovely deeply expressive eyes. He’s an Army veteran, married to his own lovely Lois Lane. If I had to pick out what defines him, it would be his relentless pursuit of standing up for the marginalized. This goes back to when he was in kindergarten at least. He stood up for the kids that got picked on, and then he just never stopped standing up for those who needed him. I’m 8 years older than him, and had a tendency to try and mother him whether he needed it or not.
My adorable baby brother. I love would like to tell you he’s a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Do, but I’m afraid you’ll get the wrong impression. While he is tall and thin, he’s far more handsome than Shaggy. He’s perennially laid back, and clearly the coolest one of “the gang”. He has an affinity for animals, but his Scooby is a cat named Kiko. He is kind, encouraging, and brings a sense of calm to whatever situation he’s in. He’s calmed me down in moments of deep agonizing pain, and I’m forever grateful. He’s also a wickedly talented artist. And his skateboard skills tend to defy gravity.
I’ve just described three very different men.
These three men, along with my husband, gathered around me, United in their common cause that day in February 2020. T
They couldn’t be more different if they had set out to be. But in that moment, they showed me the love of God, the care of what the Church should look like, in a very visceral way. In a way that I had not experienced before in my life.
Theses men were also grieving, as they too had experienced the loss of this great man. A man who had truly been dependable, a father figure to each one of us.
They could have chosen to focus on their own pain, what they were each individually going though. And frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed them. It would have been perfectly natural for them to stand there, trying to get a handle on their own thoughts and emotions.
But they didn’t. And that moment has become for me one of the defining moments in my life.
It has changed me, and deeply humbled me, and given me a benchmark to shoot for when I’m faced with other people’s pain.
There has been a lot of ink spilled and hands wrung on toxic manhood. But that day, Manhood was presented in all its glory, in its most noble form. The strong supporting the weak. That day I saw the gift that True, honest Manhood really is. Their combined strength in that moment made it a little easier for me to breath, to know that if I fell, they would hold me. if I broke, they would gather the pieces.
They gave me a picture of what the church is supposed to look like, literally carrying one another’s burdens. Lifting each other up, when we can’t find the strength to stand on our own.
I’m going to be candid, I pride myself on being a logical and rational human being who is allergic to public displays of emotion. Being the frail female in this situation was not a fun position for me to be in. If they had flaunted the (very real) help they had given me, I would not have the same positive memory . And yet…No one breathed a word of my near come-apart. It’s been almost two years, and no one has patted themselves on the back or even alluded to it. It’s possible , I suppose, that they have forgotten.
But I have not. And every time I read this passage, the day my husband and brothers stood in the gap for me. comes to mind.
“ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Romans 12:10-13 (NASB)
And that chapter goes on to say …
“ Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Romans 12:16 NASB
In that moment, I was the broken. I was the lowly, I had poverty of spirit. I was emotionally adrift at sea. My husband, my brothers, could have ignored that fact. But they didn’t.
This inspires me to do the hard work, to really climb into the muck and mire with the grieving, to be available to them emotionally.
I know now that sometimes it can make all the difference.