It has been a long journey in few days–up to Wisconsin and back from my great-Grandma Koeller’s funeral service. As I walked through the doors of the funeral home, of the church, of the cemetery…I thought of how, as you step through, you carry everything of your own past with you. In those moments, when you should be contemplating the life of a loved one, it’s the weight of your own life that is the one most heavy to bear. As I said before, grief is not about loss, it’s about living without.
On Monday I was asked to read God’s Word in the service, Romans 8:31-39. And I shook. I shook, and my heart pounded, and I could hardly breathe for the tears. Such a storm, such a great tempest, a pounding and screaming inside…
I didn’t speak at my parents funeral. I didn’t speak because I was afraid. I didn’t speak because I was afraid, and now I am ashamed. There are other words that needed to be said–needed to be heard–and I should have said them.
I should have said this…
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…” (Proverbs 22:1) and I have been left with a good name.
Not in the spelling, not in the letters that make up my signature. Not in the type on a statement or title. I have been left with a legacy of character. A reputation. A statement of value made up of year after year of living witness. That name is HONOR. That name is FAITH. That name is WORK. That name is HONEST. That name is SACRIFICE. That name is WARRIOR. That name is PROUD. That name is HUMBLE. That name is CHARITY. That name is MARRIAGE. That name is FAMILY.
That name is LOVE.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…“ and I have inherited a good name.
A name rich in generations of faithfulness. Generations of laborers. Generations of warriors, workers, of husbands and wives and children, year-after-year paving a road of opportunities for me to walk down with their giving, their living without, their leaning on the goodness of the Lord. Their devotion to each other, to others, to the Lord.
And I am afraid.
I am afraid of being unworthy. I am afraid that the weight of such goodness is too heavy for my frail imperfection. I am afraid of being the one that has to carry that burden down the dark, winding, road into the future. I am afraid of the responsibility to impart that great inheritance, more valuable than “great riches”, to the next generation–unmarked, un-darkened, unsullied. I am afraid to think that I will be known by my doings, no matter what those letters say. To know that I have been given a good name, a legacy, that is now in my hands. My hands alone. That I must be brave, be fierce, be loyal, be unwavering, unflinching, bold, determined, dedicated, faithful, graceful, abounding in mercy and love…
I am afraid that I don’t know how to show my children that you can not live off the name of your family, you must live up to it. That you can not hide behind your name, you must stand guard before it–that you can change your signature, but that will not change your name before God and the world. That a worthy life in is in the living, not in the spelling.
And I should not be afraid.
I should not be afraid, because my name is a strong fortress. My name is a fierce army. My name is a great tree with deep roots. My name has been tried and tested in the fires of a hundred generations. And it stands here today–the sum of all who came before–waiting to see if I will be added or forgotten. If I will carry forward, or run away. If I will take my place in the timeline the Lord has laid down for us.
So if there are any words for me to say, any words to be heard, they should be this…“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)
So I must breath, when I’d rather die.
I must stay, when I’d rather run. I must fight when I’d rather hide. I must work, when I’d rather rest. I must give, when I’d rather save for myself. I must be silent, when I’d rather scream. I must be still when I’d rather fight. I must offer peace when I’d rather make war. I must forgive when I’d rather resent. I must believe. I must pray. I must choose LOVE. Because that is the name I’ve been given.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed for I am they God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I have been given a road to walk…and I have been given a good name to carry with me…and I have been given the promise of the Lord to go with me. Now I must redeem the time to the purpose I’ve been given.
That’s what I should have said, because that’s what I needed to hear–and maybe someone else did too.
We talk so much about the loved one that died–but I think we need to be talking more to the ones that have to go on living. We have all our days to remember the one that passed, but the ones who are left here, alone, need our words right now. Right in this moment. Sometimes we don’t have any trouble knowing that our dear ones are happy in heaven, we have trouble knowing how we can possibly be happy here on Earth without them.