The Project: “Wrestlers, Funerals, & Eternal Life”

So, here I go on my New Year’s resolution, “The Project.” I’m trying to really stay away from blogging about ideas and positions….which is really about trying to influence the way people think. I wonder, as I share stories of people – people who make me feel something, draw me into their humanity – and what I learn from them, I might actually encounter God.

This past week, the grandmother of a couple of my wrestlers (all brothers) passed away this week. While their grandmother was older in years, the death was not expected, and like most deaths that are unexpected, the experience and grief is distinctly different. This past week, it’s been interesting interacting with all three brothers – experiencing their grandmother’s death in their own ways: their personalities uniquely different, and their roles in their family unique as well.

I attended the funeral yesterday – held in a beautiful colonial-style Presbyterian church down by the beach Oceanfront. And rather than have the minister preach – two of her grandkids gave eulogies.

One of those eulogies came from one of my wrestlers – the oldest of the brothers. And he gave a beautiful tribute to his grandmother, listing “10 things her learned from her.” And the list was touching – things like hospitality, empathy, curiosity. Things that weren’t so much lessons, but aspects of her personhood.

But it wasn’t those things that caught my attention the most. At the end of his eulogy – adding almost like an afterthought – my wrestler said, (this isn’t a word for word quote) “I beleve that eternal life is about younger generations living out and carrying on the things your life stood for. Eternal life is about those things living on inside the lives you touched. Don’t worry “ba” (his name of affection for his grandmother), that’s definitely going to happen.”

And almost immediately my mind went here: “Abide in me as I abide in you.”

These are words from the 15th chapter of John’s gospel. My wrestler isn’t a regular churchgoer, but I think he was on to something: perhaps eternal life is more about relationships that transcend time, rather than a far off place. Maybe eternal life is what parts of others’ lives inside us and what parts of us live inside others.

Maybe, as John’s gospel says, eternal life is about Christ abiding and living in us – his teachings, his birth, his death and resurrection, and most importantly, the grace and love of God that he witnessed to. Maybe, eternal life is just as my wrestler said it – just as we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us, so we let others abide in us and we in them deeply, richly, beautifully.

Lastly, I’ll just say thanks to my wrestler – for being a witness of God’s abiding presence to me. And as I was leaving the funeral, I heard a knock coming from one of the darkened windows of one of the cars out front. The rear door opened, and there were all three of my wrestlers, smiling and waving, saying “Hey Fuller, thanks for coming coach.”

And I’ll just stop there, because that probably says enough.

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