Several years ago I “flunked” a class on “centering” which was supposed to make us more productive employees.
I admit I was a rebel as we went around the room
supposedly breathing in deeply, and “feeling” the center of ourselves, “getting in touch” with ourselves, focusing on ourselves. Prior to the class I’d discovered it was to my detriment to focus on myself, and had spent at least two decades retraining myself NOT to focus inwardly. So while the time the teacher went around the room asking each of us if we’d got in touch with our best self and found our goal, I had to decide if I was going to get through the class or walk out. Reviewing the methodology of this centering, I felt it could relate to what I needed to be doing spiritually, and chose to focus on Christ, the new center of my life.
That class came to mind today when I attended the funeral of a decades-long friend. Bev courageously and confidently lived every last day and hour focused on the privilege of serving the Lord and serving her family – including the last five years of a cancer journey.
Her husband shared how at the end the pain is so intense the medication is increased and delivered on need. To ascertain when it is needed, and to not overdo, so the person is still able to communicate, they ask a series of questions. The questions sounded to me a lot like the psychological questions doctors ask seniors to check for dementia…things like Do you know where you are?
One of the last times she was being cared for her answers to the questions were all over the map, and her husband began to wonder if she was having difficulty processing both his questions and the anticipated answers to his questions. So he decided to let her ask and answer her own question. He gave her a paper and pencil, as the tumors affected her breathing and speech. Then he told her to forget his questions and just write how she was inside.
We all teared up as he told us the three words she wrote:
That was Bev. Always centered on Christ – focusing on the bigger question and not the “little things” in life. Around the entire perimeter of the room where we greeted the family were evidences of her centering techniques. Copies of Bible studies, thoughtful answers, notes and personal ways she intended to apply those teachings to her life. Accountability assignments of who she would report to on her progress.
If we wondered how she kept such a centered focus on God and not on the challenges and busyness of her life as she raised a family, that evidence was there too. Prayer lists….specific needs and lacks she felt she had. Specific heart cries for her loved ones, friends, fellow-worshipers, community members and beyond. Verse cards that she practiced until she knew them word perfect.
Bev lived her life intentionally centered on God. Evidence of her growth and learning being shared unselfishly was in the photographs, the personal notes and cards from different life-events, from the individuals, couples and groups she and her husband Gerry built into.
The respect and love (and laughter) from their church members brought more evidence of a life unafraid to be open and publicly experiencing God during worship. Several spoke of her dedication, labor of love and humble practice of spiritual discipline.
One of those aspects that spoke to me was amid Bev’s zest for life, she was always ready to listen to what God had next for her. She is one person I don’t recall ever saying “Why me, Lord?” to a difficulty of life, but almost constantly noticed every beautiful thread of God’s glory woven through the tapestry of her life. She saw things (as recorded in her many poems) without the walls and blinders that many in the world don’t see because they are too focused on themselves.
Oh, she knew alright what was going on in ‘her world’, as well as in the worlds of those she taught and cared for. It wasn’t that she didn’t recognize or feel the pain, difficulty, or impossible challenges that life brings. She recognized the pain because she experienced it, but she recognized it as a catalyst of re-centering that focus. She saw the challenges, not as for her to face alone and solve, but…as opportunities for the hand of God to work.
What a blessing to have such a friend in my legacy. Her life was like a signpost with an arrow directing others to the place of her strength. As Bev said when planning her funeral – “It’s not about me – it’s about Christ.”
1Kings 8:58 May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.