Last week, some of the moms who have spent countless hours on the sidelines together cheering on their kiddos over the past several years, spent the morning of another mom, Julia’s, memorial service lining the street with pink. A friend of Julia’s had come up with the idea to line the street from her family’s house all the way to to the cemetery with signs, balloons and bows.
It had snowed that morning and we all met on the corner of the block we had been delegated. These other “sports moms” are all different from each other. Some are athletes themselves, some are not. Some would eat a donut at the drop of a hat and some would never dare. Some are loud and some are quiet. Some work and some stay at home. Some are outgoing and some are shy. Some believe in God and some don’t. Some love the church and some want nothing to do with the church. And what had drawn us together initially was our kids, sports, school and being moms.
And here we were gathering because one of our own, a mom, had passed away. It struck me as we wrapped bows around telephone poles and hung lanterns on people’s trees (we hoped wouldn’t get angry)…it struck me that this woman’s life that we now mourned and celebrated, had impacted us all. Julia, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, truly made her life count, so much so that in her loss, a group of ragtag women who had once been drawn together by the commonality of being moms were now drawn together by who Julia was and how she lived and died.
There is something about death. There is something about mortality and the finiteness of life and facing goodbye that makes people come together. I think we all felt it could have been us. I think we all hurt for their family. I think we all wanted to do something. Anything. Even if just to pinkify a street to say to her husband and kids, “She mattered”. And she did.
Later that afternoon, our family drove to the funeral. A lot of the boys on the football team, the team who had taken 1st place as county champs, showed up wearing their green and white jerseys just to say to their friend who lost his mother, “We are on your team in victory and in loss.”
I experienced a few things that day.
I sat in that pew and kept seeing these kids file in, squishing together like sardines. Every time another boy sat down, I saw the teammates welcome and make room where there was no more room. But yet, another boy would come to sit down. I felt sorry for the older people on the end of the pew. And yet, every time another boy came, they made room because no one would be left out of this. In fact, there was no more room and one boy sat further back with his mom. And I heard the chatter amongst these kids who decided that wasn’t right for him to not be with the team. So here these boys who are very different themselves. Some love video games and twinkies, while others hate sitting dormant and eat sprouts. Some love school and play with calculators while others dread school and are adrenaline junkies. Some get the idea of death and heaven and some have never pondered such. Some are starters on the team and others play much less. And yet, when one was alone, they went and brought him back to this overfilled pew and practically sat on each other’s laps to include their team member.
I saw the power of telling someone “We are with you in victory and loss.” When the son who lost his mother looked up to the balcony of this church and saw his friends, I couldn’t help but almost lose it. He scanned the aisles and saw the football jerseys, the baseball jerseys and even some basketball jerseys, all from the teams he plays on. These kids were with him, not just on the field, but off. That young man might need to hang on to that community that surrounds him for years to come and he had a visual that day that they are indeed with him. We will all take our turn facing something where we need our team to show up. And for that boy, that day, they did.
I also saw the beauty in the invitation our kids received. I looked at these boys backs. As i sat behind them, I realized, they too, will face loss, pain and hardship throughout their lives. And we just invited them to experience what it looks like to stand with people in pain. Not run from it. Not act like its not happening. Not make it small. But instead, to allow pain, suffering and death draw community together and stand for those who might need help standing. This was a beautiful and powerful invitation that those boys will most likely relive in their future and now they know how to.
Sitting in the waft of “It is well with my soul” and hearing countless stories of this woman who lived her entire life for Jesus, I started to see how all of these different people from different places in her life had come together. They had come together and now were being invited to, together, come to Jesus. And then I was reminded of what a friend always says: “At the foot of the cross, all ground is level.”
There are no starters or bench warmers at the foot of the cross. There are no quarterbacks, nor water boys. There are no coaches, nor psycho sports parents. There are no winners and losers There are no cool kids or cool moms or uncool kids or uncool moms. There are no overachievers or slackers at the foot of the cross. The foot of the cross is level ground. There are no hierarchies. There are no castes. There are no ladders. There is no score. Jesus says “Come” to all and all can come. The invitation is for everybody. A call for people as diverse and colorful as they are; strong and weak, faithful and faithless, stubborn and shy, awkward and charming, cool and callused, for all to come. A team, if you will, where in the world we would play on different fields, but with Jesus, all ground is level. At the foot of the cross, sitting before Him and His ultimate show of love, we see and understand in our guts that everyone there matters. Everyone there is important. Everyone there is loved.
Sitting in those pews singing “When we’ve been there ten thousand years” alongside people from different places in their faith, who had originally been drawn together by being moms, were now being drawn together by something more. Something deeper. It felt like a powerful invitation for all of us to know, we all come as we are. And when we do, all the barriers, all the differences, all the diversity, all the wins and losses, they are all wiped away and all there is, is a God who says “Come” because He loves us so. And even God says, “Come, i am with you in all your wins and all your losses. Just come.”
Life and death continue to be my teacher as I am a student of Him who says “Come.” May you be HIs student too.