I thought I was done blogging about our tragedy this week, but I can’t leave it without writing about the grace of God to finish it with victory. Today was the funeral, and it was a hard funeral to go to. I’ve only ever been to funerals of elderly people, and to go to a funeral of someone who was younger than me – well, it was hard. However, I was dumbfounded, stunned, and humbled by what happened at that funeral.
Several people spoke – James and Ashlie’s former youth pastor, James’ best friend, then James and Ashlie’s Pastor. Their Pastor was talking about victory in death, and then he said he would like to invite a victor forward to speak, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when, across the aisle from me, the 22 year old widow, Ashlie, stood up and walked forward to address the hundreds of people at her husband’s funeral.
Here is the first part of what she said, as best as I can remember it:
I prayed all morning I could get through this. But I know that James would want me to get up here and tell his family how very much he loved you, and his friends how much he loved you, and his church family how much he loved you. But most of all, he would want me to tell you how much Jesus loves you. If you do not know Jesus, today is the day for you to accept him.
She went on to read Romans 5:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
She finished by saying that James had given us all much joy and love, and that he would want nothing more than for the guests at his funeral to accept Jesus that day. She spoke with courage, with authority, with love, and with conviction.
I am so humbled by Ashlie’s strength and bravery, by her conviction and her grasp of what is truly important – eternally important. I know that people got saved today, and I smiled during the prayer, knowing that James and Jesus were rejoicing in heaven, and I wondered if Jesus even let James write a name or two in the Book of Life.
Thank you, God, for giving Ashlie the strength to show her conviction in Your eternal life and Your power to save all who call out to You! Thank you for leading her to make it completely clear what is really important in life and to make her husband’s funeral about You instead of about her loss and tragedy, which would have been completely understandable. I am at a loss for words at how amazed I am by Your grace shown through her today.
Ashlie, you are my hero.