It was the day we buried my grandfather. After the internment we gathered at the old home place. Grandma had a weak heart and was lying in her feather bed with most of her eight daughters moving in and out of the room trying to comfort her. After a while one of them came and asked me if I would try; I was the preacher in the family (several of my cousins or their spouses have since entered the ministry), and I had graduated from “Bible College” (Lee College).
My plan was to get her talking about her early life with Grandpa. They had been married for six decades. But regardless of my inquiry her response always shifted quickly to the Lord and stories of His faithfulness. I finally gave in and let her talk about the things that gave her comfort. Before long she was laughing interspersed with moans and tears.
As she became more lucid her stories became more engaging. One was about the greatest crises of her faith. Early in her walk with Christ she had an altercation with a one of the sisters in the church. After service one Sunday a woman came up to her and told her another sister was spreading a story about her. It seems some of the boys had crawled under the church to look up through the cracks in the floor during the service, my uncles among them. The lie being told was a speculation my Grandmother had put her sons up to it.
Grandma said, “Something came all over me. I walked straight up to her. She was stepping up on the running board of her Model T and snatched her hat right off her head.”
With a twinkle in her eye, she continued, “But it wasn’t her hat I was grabbing for.”
“They threatened to turn me out of the church. At the meeting they said I had to apologize to her. They didn’t make her apologize to me for the lie she told, but I had to apologize.”
“Son, it was the hardest thing I have ever done (this from a woman who had twelve children). But I knew my Lord and my church were the most important things in my life. I apologized and I have never regretted it.”
My grandmother loved the church. It was for her the body of Christ. She could not separate fellowship with her Lord from fellowship with his saints. Well, maybe she could, but why would she want to. She had experienced something with those people that tied her to them in Christ. They wept together, rejoiced together, shouted together, and hoped for the return of their Lord together.
I am thankful for the fellowship of the saints. I am not certain I have ever known that fellowship with the intensity Grandma knew it, but I have known it. I have been in the depths of despair and felt the prayers of the saints hold me up, knowing my life was joined to them. I have felt my heart strangely warmed witnessing others receive their blessing from God. On the other hand, I have been lied to and lied about by fellow ministers; people have tried to destroy me and my ministry, and still I love the church and I am thankful for it.
There is more to my Grandmother’s story of ecclesial conflict. Maybe I’ll share it someday.
February 4, 2010