Kindness is not always easy
Among the All Nations values is:
We want to cultivate kingdom lifestyles of honour and generosity.”
Last Sunday Manuel spoke on living a generous lifestyle.
Here, Jodie reflects on her parents’ example of living generously and honouring people regardless of who they are and what they are like.
I want to tell you a story about my parents.
I want to tell you this story because today it is making my heart ache.
This story started four years ago and (at the time of writing) it will end next week.
My parents live in a village in an Eastern European country. It's not a small village, but it's a village. There are a few shops, a school, an Eastern Orthodox Church, a couple of bars (typically a room at the front of a house with some plastic chairs, a large fridge, and a till), a park (which could be in a 70s horror movie) and a 'train station' (basically a dilapidated and overgrown platform)
There was one other British couple in this village.
Like most Brits, Ray & Felicity (not their real names, to protect family members) retired out there for the lifestyle. The weather. The alcohol.....
Then four years ago, while we were visiting my parents, there was a knock on the door, in the early hours of the morning, in the middle of our holiday.
Ray had died.
He had been ill, had a virus, slept in the other bedroom so as not to disturb Felicity. He had got up in the night, vomited in the bathroom, got back into bed and died.
My mom tackled the bathroom; on her hands and knees in vomit.
My dad dealt with the bedroom...and Ray. He stripped him, and washed him, and prepared him for the funeral director.
Felicity requested Ray's wedding ring, so my mom went to get it. Unfortunately, because of the position of Ray's hands when he died, she couldn't remove it, so the next door neighbour came.
She broke his finger so she could remove his ring and give it to his widow.
My dad took Ray's car to the next village to buy a coffin, then drove it to the nearest city where Ray had been taken.
Ray was buried the next day.
Serving people is rarely convenient.
Yet Jesus calls us to serve.
To put others first.
To die daily to our own desires.
To take up our cross and follow him.
Taking up your cross isn't meant to be easy.
It isn't meant to be pleasant.
Ray's death was just the beginning.
For the last four years my parents have faithfully served Ray's widow. Rarely has a week gone by when our Skype conversations haven't touched on the latest issue; money, health, cleanliness, alcohol dependency, operations, drink-driving, police, court, car accident etc.
It's been a tough four years, but where other 'friends' have dropped off the radar, my parents haven't. They've stuck it out.
Don't get me wrong, they aren't saints. There have been many tears, frustrations, and questions about boundaries. There have been harsh words and plenty of tough love. But not once have they stopped serving.
Then a week ago, my mom popped round to see Felicity because she wasn't answering her phone.
Felicity was yellow.
When my mom visited her in hospital she was strapped to the bed because she kept trying to pull out her drip.
The next time she visited, Felicity she was barely conscious, so a call was made to her daughter in England. She got to hear the words "I love you" from her mother's lips.
The next day Felicity died.
Yesterday, my parents spent the whole day dealing with paperwork and organising the funeral. They also visited the morgue. It's not like the UK, where you only see the person's face. You see the whole body, completely naked, along with a very fresh postmortem scar. Yet my mom said she looked at peace.
Tomorrow she will be buried.
Due to the many health issues and consequences of alcohol dependency, Felicity had no suitable (or clean) clothes to be buried in.
So tomorrow, early in the morning, my parents will go back to the morgue and prepare Felicity for burial.
She will be dressed in my mother's clothes.
My parents' satin sheets will line her coffin.
The day of the funeral, Felicity's daughter, a complete stranger, will arrive and stay with my parents.
You see, sometimes serving people is hard, and painful, and tiring, and inconvenient.
Sometimes you will feel resentful, and frustrated, and like you're doing it all wrong.
Sometimes the person/people you're serving may not appreciate or recognise what you're doing, they may take it (and you) for granted, they may never change...and they may die.
More often than not, what you do will be unseen and unnoticed by the majority.
Jesus calls us to do it anyway; to serve the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Even the alcoholic widow who takes what you do and who you are for granted.
My parents have modelled for me, in this particular set of circumstances, how to love and serve like Jesus.
That is why my heart aches today.
That is why I need to tell this story.