My phone rang a few Friday nights ago. Betty (not her real name), a newcomer to our church, told me that her mother had passed and that the funeral was the next day at 1:00. Would I come? Yes.
I arrived at the funeral home at 12:50 and was the only white person there. The attendants were busy gathering mourners in the foyer of the chapel.
I leaned over to a woman standing close: “Excuse me…I’m obviously not part of the family. If this is family gathering, I don’t want to be in the wrong place. Should I slip into the chapel?”
“No, honey, this ain’t the family. This is everybody. We’re going to march down the aisle, view the body, turn left, turn left again, then file into the pews in the order we came down the aisle. That’s how we do it.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, grateful for her direction, not wanting to stand out any more than I already did.
The music swelled, the double doors opened and we began our solemn parade. I looked for Betty, but didn’t see her. The family would enter after we took our places.
Down the aisle I followed the slow procession, preparing to view Betty’s mother.
Nothing could have prepared me for the view of the body.
Rather than an elderly woman in the coffin, I found a twenty-something gangsta fella with chains around his neck and a t-shirt that said “Rich’n Famous”.
Trying to be reverent, yet thinking “What the heck?”, I followed the people in front of me to my place in the pew. There was no leavin’ now!
The service began. The minister asked if anyone wanted to say something about the deceased. His eyes scanned the room, then stopped as his met mine. “Please don’t call on me”, I chanted silently. A few people reminisced about their relationship with Rich n’ Famous. The man stood again. “Anybody else?” I felt his eyes on me.
I feared that the next sentence out of his mouth would be something like “I don’t think we’ve heard from the white woman that nobody seems to know.”
The silence fell heavy in the room while he waited, staring at me. A few big hats turned around to see who he was lookin’ at.
I decided that if he called on me, I would begin to cry, choking out words to the effect that I felt as if I had just met the dearly departed, our friendship tragically cut short by the call of Heaven on his life.
Right time, wrong place.
Or was it?
Listening to some of the most beautiful music and powerful preaching I’ve ever heard, I began to forget my awkward situation. My focus shifted from my predicament to a Savior who loves to save even one who has a life of regrets, but calls on Him at the last minute. A Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one stray. The King of kings who stoops down to intervene in a sinner’s heart to make him or her His child.
Seems Rich n’ Famous and I had more in common than I originally thought.
Before I knew it my hands were raised in praise and adoration of our gracious God.
Right place. Right time.