“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (I Peter 3:4)
At funerals no one clamors for the front row. For concerts and Broadway shows the best seats in the house are difficult to come by, are higher priced, and are envied by all. But not at funerals. The front row there comes with the awful price of a broken heart.
A few weeks ago I watched my friend take the front row seat by the casket of her husband. Freshly fallen snow blanketed the ground at her feet and stately trees wearing white-powdered uniforms stood respectfully at attention. My friend looked as beautiful as ever, her face streaked with tears and her heart shattered inside her chest in a hundred jagged pieces.
She had known the harmony of a loving marriage and the companionship of a man who cherished her. She wore battle scars from their confrontations with the unrelenting cancer that ravaged every cell he possessed. They fought together, arm in arm, for over two arduous years. But the dragon would not be slayed.
My friend had the regal stature of a queen holding court. I could almost see a crown of grace sitting on her brow. Amazingly, there was no trace of bitterness or anger in her sad eyes. In some miraculous way, the suffering had marked her with the startling beauty of surrender. The agony of her enormous suffering only served to reveal the strength and dignity of her character.
Later, I watched her sitting on the front row of the church as her husband’s faithfulness and courage were applauded. And when the worship music began, she lifted her hands to praise the God she had begun serving as a little girl. In the Lord’s eyes she must have looked even more beautiful than I can describe. He had asked her to take a dreadful journey and had promised to be by her side. Her worship was confirmation to us all that he had been completely trustworthy all the while.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life…Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:10-12, 25).
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo: Paul Westel