When I think about Myra, I think of her as an incredibly dear friend, and a phenomenal dose of what “church” is at its best. Let me tell you about Myra.
First of all, I’m ever so grateful for Myra and her family. I don’t want to “outshine” their grief or special relationship to her as mother, grandmother, aunt, sister. I know she was actually a dear, dear friend to a LOT of people, so I realize I have to share some of this specialness.
Myra was special. She was one of our “older” friends (she died last week at age 92). She was a gentle and fierce soul; she was loving and outspoken; she was faithful and skeptical.
I think I first got to know Myra well when Roy and Myra and their friend Helen attended a church school class I taught at Hope Church 20-some years ago. It was a class on spirituality, using Don Postema’s book, Space for God. They were not the easiest customers in my class, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of their skepticism and push-backs. However, we did take a field trip at the end of the class to a monastery about 1 ½ hours away, and they came along…expressing their skepticism and hard questions along the way.
For example, Roy wondered why on earth the monks could say their work was prayer. And why get up so early in the day to pray? Later, I learned that Myra was actually the early bird in the family, getting up early to read the Bible and other books. Roy’s playful faith came to light particularly when he’d be the host for dinner, and his prayer before the meal was something like, “Lord, please bless this food because we’re going to eat it. Amen.”
A number of years later, I was elected to serve our classis as an officer. The threesome of Roy, Myra, and Helen, approached me and proclaimed that they were going to be my support group during my term as president of classis, because I was going to need some support. Their plan was this: I had to tell them when classis met so that we could meet later that week to “debrief” and process things. They took themselves seriously in their assignment; I was a blessed recipient of their care and concern.
Over the years, this threesome had come to be shining lights of God’s saints. From Roy’s very politically incorrect greeting of, “How are you, girlie?” to Myra’s and Helen’s sincere delight at checking in on how we were, we got the message that these saints were gracious, loving people who sincerely cared.
There have been numerous times, in our several adventures, when I observed their willingness to be good sports in these adventures. From riding in the convertible to the church youth group drive-in fundraiser, to outings at the nearby minor league baseball games, to heading to a nearby town for perch dinners: they were eager to be with us and have fun.
We have discussed many difficult topics, from politics to faith to church life, to deaths of family members. What I found striking, time and again, was their confident, joyful and hopeful faith. They were not easily rattled by the latest church controversy, even though it may have been perceived as risky not to be unsettled by such things. They were far more progressive in integrating their faith and life than I would ever have expected them to be, which I think is a model for a faith that is confidently rooted in God’s providence and our hope. They had seen enough change and difficulties in life to know that roses have thorns. They had experienced enough skepticism from their own families and friends about their expressions of faith and views to know that the culture of faith in our region would belittle their Christianity.
They expressed a wisdom, a solemn undergirding of belief in God’s care that allowed them to be joyful, funny, delightful people who knew enough not to take themselves so seriously. Their love was evident to all. They were the living church because their faith and their personal expressions of love, concern, and desire to engage in the richness of God’s gifts and call to all of us were so very genuine and real (to borrow a sense of “realness” from The Velveteen Rabbit).
And while Myra and Roy and Helen were (and are) so special to us, we also realize that pretty much everyone felt the same way. This spirited threesome had become special to a group that had committed to reading through the Bible a number of years ago; the group still meets at least monthly. What does special mean when you’re special to so many people, except that they took to heart such meaningful embracing of the community of faith?
Roy, Myra, and Helen had become such dear friends over many years because they were so gently fierce in their friendships. They were (and Helen is) ever so honest in their engagement of others, which is an incredible way to show respect for people. They had the perspectives of coming from families and communities where such honesty might have been disguised as politeness, but they were genuine, humble, and sincere friends.
I had the opportunity to be with Myra two weeks ago. I wanted to thank her, and to thank God for her, because she has given such a remarkable gift to me and to others in her friendship, and in her ability to be a lively demonstration of what church can be. She was the church to me–a dear soul whose gracious living and loving helped demonstrate the Spirit’s work in such lovely human form.