Yesterday, Tricia, our son, Dan, and I went to the Barn in Simsbury, CT to attend the funeral of a long-time and dear friend of ours, Dave Ross. We met him and his wife, Phyllis, in the early '80's when we were living in Winsted, CT and attending Bakerville Methodist Church together. When we moved to Simsbury, they did as well and we attended the Barn together. While never enough, we spent many hours together over the years eating, laughing and sharing our challenges and insights as Jesus-followers.
As I sat amidst his family, and friends we had not seen much since we left the Barn in the summer of 2008, I was struck by this thought: in the midst of walking forward with the birth of imagine/northampton with all the time and effort it takes to see it through, it is critical to remember the inestimable treasure we hold in family and friendships, in people who have accompanied our lives and we, theirs'. While I know the thought of stopping to note and relish the people we know and love has been examined ad nauseum, it still caught me up short for a minute. It felt as though insight paid a visit.
In being with Dave's family and getting a chance to catch up with old friends, especially some of the guys on the Worship Team I played with for years, I realized that in the birthing process we currently undertake, our focus is constantly fixed on looking forward, creating and becoming. We gaze ahead and what could be takes center stage.
Ultimately, we are being formed by the birthing; it is leaving an indelible mark on us and keeps forming who we are.
But, occasions like a funeral, or a wedding or party with old friends also help us remember how we have been shaped by people who left a mark on us as well. Such experiences:
1. Recall warm memories of life lived together with laughter and tears such that we were left changed. We see their influence afresh and rejoice or reflect.
2. Help us remember how graced our lives have been because of these people who drew along side and added to or transformed something in us for the better. In remembering, gratitude has a chance to refresh our hearts.
3. Bring to mind regrets around opportunities for friendship lost or hurts sustained. They are bittersweet in the remembering, but offer hindsight glimpses into what could have been done differently, or might still be done differently.
4. Let us see our history and life journey in the fresh conversation with people, who while growing older, still feel that we have known them and they us. The familiarity lingers and we feel safe.
5. Remind us of the mystery of persons, the profound sacredness of human being infused with God-breathed life and sentience. We see these people who populated our lives; we remember those who have left for home with God and, if we let them, even for a few moments, wonder and longing seep up from inside us and whisper joy.
6. Let us see once again it is in relationships past that we were formed and made ready for new relationships in the birthing and growing of a church. We have become who we are and give away who who have learned to be, in part, because of the folks we have known.
These days I am caught mid-stream in birthing imagine/northampton, chasing down "what-if's" and following God into a future he is creating. It has my full attention. But once in a while, I get to glimpse into the past in the presence of someone who filled a part of it with me, and left me different because of it.
Saturday reminded me it is good to linger there once in awhile.
I am glad I did.