There are moments that are holy that you dare not observe as an outsider. I’m thinking about moments like a bride and groom seeing each other for the first time, or sealing their covenant with a kiss. The birth of a child is also one of those times where the world fades away and nothing else matters. I witnessed a third holy moment yesterday that caused me to look away and choose to step back in reverence.
My cell phone buzzed across the Starbucks table yesterday morning. It was the call that a spiritual father in my life, Bill Bagby, had slipped from this life into heaven. I scooped up my books and coffee and away I headed toward their home in Paradise.
During the next three hours, we laughed and cried and thought a lot about Bill and the impact he has made on us. It was a privilege for me to be there with four of his kids, to share those moments with them. While we all spent moments at Bill’s bedside at different times, it was just before his body was taken away that the most holy of moments occurred. Knowing that this would be the last time we would see his face, this side of heaven, the air began to get heavy with grief and the finality of the day.
I found myself in the bedroom with Leo, Bill’s best friend, and the Bagby kids. Spontaneously each person began to express their thanks to Bill for living a faithful life, for loving them well and reflecting on his Godly character. At first, I felt like an intruder, who did not have the credentials to be present. I stepped back three steps from the circle, unsure of the appropriateness of my involvement. Although we all know we will see him again and do not grieve like those who have no hope, it was a bitterly sad time.
In those moments, I stared at the floor, unsure of where to look, or what to do. It was as I studied the carpet that the Lord began to whisper to me. I felt like I heard the questions, “Was he not a father to you as well? Are you not a loved son whom he prayed for and invested in? What do you have to express in this moment that you will not be able to say at his memorial service? Don’t you see that you belong here too?” I wrestled for a few minutes, having an internal argument with the Lord.
Stepping forward hesitantly, I began to speak, to weep and express myself. I felt invited into a holy moment, and quickly felt the hand of one of Bill’s daughters on my shoulder. This shows the inclusiveness that Jesus is calling us to reflect to others as the Body of Christ. Their acceptance of me as a “son” who was loved by their father didn’t take away from their special, longer relationship with their dad.
It is my hope that we can model this kind of acceptance with others who visit and are investigating the faith. I believe we are called to invite others into the holy moments that we are experiencing. Inviting them into experiencing the life to the fullest that Jesus offers to us.
The other powerful aspect of my time yesterday is the example Bill set for us as a spiritual father. When we are at our best, we are coming alongside others and helping them in their spiritual growth. Bill was so accepting, so loving and nonjudgmental. This didn’t mean that he was wishy-washy about truth; it meant that he lived a life full of grace. My life is richer and reflects God’s grace more because of my time with Bill. I want to reflect that grace to others and I desire for our church to live in that kind of generosity of heart and kindness.
Help us Jesus to be a good reflection of your gracious character!