His name was Jimmy, and he was not like the other folks who came to the funeral that day. As one of the three preachers sitting on the platform at the front of the church, I saw clean shaven men in their Sunday suits, and neatly coiffed women in their finest dresses. And then there sat Jimmy on the front row. He was filthy, smelly, and looked like he had combed his hair with a balloon. His worn out jeans, creeping up above his crusty, naked ankles, proudly highlighted his cracked work boots that appeared to be held together by layers of mud. In spite of the sweltering southern, summer afternoon heat and humidity, Jimmy sported a ragged, oversized winter Army jacket that appeared several wars old.
But Jimmy sat there in the funeral with the best of them. He, too, had come to pay his last respects to his departed friend, and he was oblivious to the fact that he stuck out like a sore thumb. That is, until after the funeral.
As funerals go, this one was rather typical. Singers sang about crossing through Jordon’s icy waters to get to the other side, mourners mourned and cooled themselves with cardboard funeral home fans, and preachers preached on the virtues of the dearly departed, the brevity of life on earth, and the rewards laid up in heaven for the dead in Christ. In fact, several preachers eulogized that day. One, in particular, waxed eloquent on the legacy of love that survives the departed beyond the grave.
The funeral ended, the graveside service was conducted, proper final respects were rendered to the deceased, and the gravediggers climbed back out of their truck with their shovels. Another dear saint was safely home with Jesus. All that was left were the perfunctory handshakes, hugs, and hearty, although empty, promises to come see each other soon.
Nobody, however, seemed eager to shake Jimmy’s hand. No one slapped him on the back or told him how glad they were to see him again, because it was obvious they were not glad to see him. Jimmy was mud on the carpet and stains on the pew cushions. He was a yellow-fingered, greasy nailed, dirty hand that nobody particularly wanted to touch. But Jimmy considered himself as much a part of the gang as the next guy, so he kept bounding from pillar to post with a naïve smile and an outstretched paw.
While making the rounds, Jimmy eventually proceeded my way. I was parked elbow-to-elbow with the reverend that had so eloquently proclaimed the virtues of Christian charity, and I watched as Jimmy shoved his crusty hand out to Brother Love. My heart and Jimmy’s spirit were crushed at the same time when, unbelievably, that pious and pretentious preacher would not shake Jimmy’s eager and open palm. Dumbfounded and stunned, Jimmy dropped his empty hand and his embarrassed head. His smile faded. His eyes clouded over in a gale of confusion. His fire went out. And Jimmy stumbled away.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Although I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am merely a clanging gong or resounding cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1). Sermons are a dime a dozen, and talk is cheap. But Divine Love washed His disciples filthy feet in water the night before He washed their souls with His blood.
As Jimmy shuffled out of the cemetery towards the road, a woman compassionately called out to him, “Hey, Jimmy.” As he hesitantly turned around, she walked up to him, held out her clean, soft, manicured hand, and said with genuine sincerity, “How are you, Jimmy? It is good to see you.” Dismayed, Jimmy responded, “It is?” The woman replied, “Yes, it really is.” Jimmy took her hand and smiled. That is all he wanted to hear. Somebody was glad to see him.
I’m glad I saw Jimmy, too. Have you seen him anywhere?
© Chip Kirk