Thursday, March 02, 2017

Anything But Random

I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon to go to the funeral of dad's brother, my Uncle Monroe, a giant man of faith, who will be remembered in services in Milwaukee. I'm actually excited to go because I will see many relatives who I haven't seen in years. This is about  young man who came to my mother's funeral, even though we are not technically related. It is from May 28, 2013.

There was one of those envelopes that you just know is some sort of announcement or invitation in my mail box last Friday afternoon.... and it was. One of my former students, Michael, is getting married to a lovely young lady named Laura in Arizona in less than three months. They providentially met at Harding University where for some reason I failed to meet my spouse but I guess you have to say providentially about that as well. Michael was in my eighth grade Bible class at WCS a number of years ago before his family relocated to the Dallas area. And what a terrific one he belongs to. His folks are the kind of folks every congregation needs to thrive and spread the Gospel. Michael's brothers and sister rounded out a wonderful family and our church was the less when his dad's financial firm transferred him to the Dallas area. Over time, I've seen Michael as his folks have come back to visit their myriad of friends in Houston. Even after they moved, Michael would collect pennies for the fund raiser we do for Honduran orphanages. And he gave me one of my favorite ties, a blue Biblically based neck wear; goes with anything!

There's one more thing about Michael's family. His mom, Suzanne, is from Nashville, Arkansas, the same little town where my mom was born and raised. Suzanne graduated from Nashville High, just like my mom, and knows my first cousins, my Uncle Bill's kids. Because of that Arkansas connection, Michael's younger brother, Mason, refers to me as Cousin Hawley. Suzanne would often mail or bring me newspaper articles about my Nashville kinfolk and I always appreciated those gestures. (A sidenote: like all of you who know her, I became very careful opening anything from Suzanne as her mailings invariably include a healthy share of that shiny confetti stuff!) Suzanne and her husband, Paul, obviously raised their children not just to be strong in the faith but to be gracious and kind to others. Let me give you the best example I know.

My mother died four years ago this spring, on March 31st. Mom suffered from Alzheimer's and had not known any of us for years. We moved her to Wichita after Dad's death eleven months prior to be in the same city as Dave and Scott. We arranged for her body to be taken to Nashville for the visitation and burial the next day in the family cemetery. Michael was a freshman at Harding at the time. He heard from his grandmother about the passing of Mom and drove the  180+ miles between Searcy and Nashville to be at the visitation and funeral the next morning. I was dumbfounded. Michael did not know Mom and I doubt he knew any other of my relatives. But he took the time, as a nineteen year old, to drive close to four hundred miles round trip, just to be there. I gained a huge new measure of respect for that young man and the family who instilled that level of empathy in their offspring. Truthfully, I struggle to make it to funeral homes even ten minutes away from where I live- it's too often inconvenient. That's why I'm not that big a fan of the term random acts of kindness. Not that I'm against behaving in a gracious manner when the unexpected shows up at our doorstep; that's exactly what the Good Samaritan did. But I believe there must be a deliberateness in how we carry out the Lord's commands. Look at what Paul wrote in Colossians, chapter 3, verse 12:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Clothing ourselves is not a random act. (Well, I have been accused of randomly picking out what I wear without thought.) We dress ourselves painstakingly at times, seeking the median between fashion and comfort, affordability and vanity. Dressing ourselves spiritually cannot logically be less a priority than selecting fabric and buttons, shoes and colors. I don't know if Michael will be wearing a tux when his lovely bride walks down the aisle to meet him in August. But, I do know he's already picked out his eternal wardrobe- compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I'd say he's a lock to make the only best dressed list that has any significance.

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