Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” -Luke 7: 47-48
One of my long-time friends was laid to rest last week. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone because her death was unexpected. It stemmed from an accident, a fall.
We knew each other from college, and our lives were woven in and out, mainly through church connections for over fifty years. Her fourth husband and I have known each other for about forty-five years. He lost two other wives to cancer, and I rejoiced when they married each other in their later years.
Elizabeth worked in numerous local churches providing music ministry for all ages. She was also a high school English teacher. She didn’t let her hard upbringing hold her back but used it to propel her strong character, determination, and sense of purpose. She was a fighter, a defender of the underdog, and outspoken for justice. And you always knew where you stood with Elizabeth.
We disagreed on theological issues, but I understood where she was coming from. Her mentor was an old-school liberal minister who put his feet to his faith and helped pick up Elizabeth out of the pit in her young adult years. He brought her into a loving church family and made sure she got a college education. Newly divorced, with a young daughter in tow, she worked hard to become more than she ever believed she could be. She loved Jesus and knew he had always been with her, as her rescuer and comforter, every step of the way.
Those classical liberal ideals made her a generous soul who reached out to others with unconditional love. Her perfectionism and work ethic produced top-notch music ministries in the church, touching the lives of all ages. So many children grew up loving music and Jesus because of Elizabeth.
In her darkest days, when her daughter Jeanette was very ill and after she died, Elizabeth knew the enfolding love of the Body of Christ as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Our theological differences didn’t matter, but we thought the other wrong on several issues. Elizabeth could be pretty abrasive but was never unkind. I’d like to think after she heard the Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” that he also said, “Now ‘Lizabeth, let me set you straight on some things.”
The bonds of faith, music, and common friendships were strong, and it was easy to maintain when we all attended the same church. Unfortunately, our home church dwindled and eventually closed its doors. That painful process shredded the fabric of the ties that bind in that congregation. Elizabeth and Richard went in one direction, and many of us went in another.
I went to Bible study at Elizabeth’s house for a while, and we talked on the phone occasionally. But we didn’t stay in touch as often, especially during the pandemic.
So over the last couple of weeks before she died, I had her on my mind. It had been a few months since we last talked, and I felt promptings to call her. I didn’t know about her fall or that she had surgery for a broken leg. I didn’t realize she got Covid there at the end. Only after a blood clot suddenly went to her heart did I find out about her final ordeal. And it was too late to obey that urge to call her.
I have this fear that when I cross over into eternity, Jesus will sit me down in an old-timey classroom with wooden desks in rows. He will turn off the lights, go to the back of the room, and flip the switch on a sixteen-millimeter film projector. The familiar clicking sounds will start, and my eyes will follow the light beam, dust dancing in the air, to the front of the room. On the screen, I will see every missed opportunity in my life, knowing there are too many to count. I’ve tended to gloss over my disobedience, which now breaks my heart.
But when the film is over, Jesus is next to me to assure me of His love and forgiveness.
And Elizabeth, who loved much, walks in the door with open arms to say, “Welcome home, friend.”