There are landmark occasions in life that function as dress rehearsals for the great Judgment Day. They include memorial services and adult birthday parties at which invitees are asked to say a few words about the eulogized or feted person. I was at such a gathering recently, the 40th birthday of woman in my church.
After we had mingled and sampled hors d’oeuvres, it was announced that the “formal” part of the party was to begin. We sat in a circle, about 20 of us, and Tina was seated in the middle, and we were asked to approach in turn and say one thing about her. I was soooo glad I wasn’t in the queen bee position. What could they say?
The woman ahead of me declared that, upon much reflection, she was certain that the single word that best summed up Tina was “courage.” The moment the word came out of her mouth, I knew it was true and that there was no better description: five children, including one special needs daughter, and yet always smiling, always serene, always room in her heart for other people’s needs. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:25).
At my turn, I told the group that Tina had taught my son in Sunday school, and that I had never thanked her properly, and yet she was always gracious to me and even sought me out, as if she were the one indebted.
A few women down the row, Lise stepped up and said she was sure the best word for Tina was “beauty.” And as soon as she uttered it, I fickly jumped ship from “courage” to this new most encompassing adjective for the birthday woman. But then another woman—like yet another guru from Indostan assessing the proverbial elephant—said she was certain that the essential truth about Tina was a “gentle and quiet” spirit. I now changed my vote again.
Most moments of the day we can deceive ourselves that all is well and all men are alike. But a time is coming when the treadmill will grind to a halt and the Day will reveal what is true. Birthday parties are hard for me, a wake-up call. Now is the time for acquiring the character we want to take into eternity with us.