A few weeks ago, Leslee, our children and I joined my extended and previous church family to celebrate the baptism and fifth birthday of my nephew, Luca. As some of you know, Luca is dying of brain cancer (please pray for him!) The time featured a conflicting blend of emotions: sadness, brotherly love, concern, and even joy.
One of the pastors, retired, sat down next to Luca and tenderly shared about God’s love by weaving together two similar but different threads; my sister’s preparation of a special breakfast just the day before and then the pastor’s own story of his wife’s care when he himself suffered from five strokes that he described as “boo-boos in his head” (which is the way little Luca describes the wrenching pain in his head).
What a blessing it was to be with people with whom I had known for over 40 years. Some, I had served with in the trenches. While I have not been at that church for 13 years, the mettle of their love has been demonstrated in so many ways to my extended family… always bringing a meal, a gift, providing care, praying, and showing up in hospitals at all hours.
On the lighter side, I reminisced with a couple who helped me grill about 100 pounds of steak and chicken one blazing hot summer day as part of an annual thank you party for our ministry volunteers. I think we each sweated off 15 pounds that day.
- My brother-in-law’s sister, a Disney employee, who flew up from Florida just for this event, shared some tricks for doing Disney more affordably.
- Three of Luca’s grandparents were there. Just the presence of grandparents in distressing times imbues one with confidence, doesn’t it? When all we see is darkness, they remind us, “You will make it through”.
- A loud mix of teenagers on the porch all so close that you just think of them as family whether they really are or not. Just weeks ago, three of those teens visited my house to watch the Super Bowl with us.
- This is a group I have seen over and over at birthday celebrations, Fourth of July, Easter, Thanksgiving, at the hospitals, it is a group that ministers faithfully and powerfully. I think it is probably unusual. I know people who attend church but do not have these kinds of enduring relationships.
I stop to think, how would any of us get through this life without the love and support of church family—like this?
And then there’s the pained smile of little Luca, clinging tightly to his mother and who would trade being the center of attention to simply be able to walk to his toy box. All of these people –I imagine around 75 in total—all there for him but we all benefitted in simple yet profound ways from the bond that is.
As we made the two-hour drive home, Leslee and the kids shared their little conversations, moments, and experiences, and it struck me again how much of a privilege it is to live in the body of Christ. How often do we take our relationships at church for granted?