As a familiar looking man dressed in a business suit approached, he extended his hand to me and offered his condolences. We then began a conversation about my brother-in-law, who had passed away at the age of sixty-six from multiple myeloma. Diagnosed a mere six weeks before he died, our family was left reeling from his sudden death.
"Larry was dedicated to his profession and to his patients," I said, as I began to relate the story of how Larry had informed his staff that he had to close his medical practice immediately. "His wife told me he'd cried."
It took me off guard when the man said, "Well...it was his profession that defined him."
You know nothing about Larry, I thought. He was not defined by his profession or by his financial status, academic standing, his parenting or his marriage. I knew the man meant well, but I also knew he was wrong.
The person soon moved on down the line, but I remained troubled by his comment. I was aware that Larry's profession had meant a great deal to him--that he was well-respected in his field. But that was not what defined him.
At one point during the evening visitation, a young doctor approached me. It seemed she had mistaken me for Larry's widow. As she took my hand in hers she said, "Larry's influence made me a better person". Tears trickled down her cheeks. At that moment, I didn't have the heart to tell her that I wasn't Dr. Loopstra's wife.
The message at Larry's funeral, the following day, was taken from Galations 5:22, 23. God's word, in part, defined who Larry was as he had lived by the Spirit. His life reflected love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ...not perfectly as it is known by believers that our sinful nature prevents it. But, when we are in Christ, through his blood we are cleansed; therefore we, as believers, are not defined as the world would define us. It's by God's grace we are who we are.
Our worth is never found in what we do but rather in who we belong to. No matter what our failures or successes may be, we can rest in that knowledge.
See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1John 3:1
Claudia Loopstra is a speaker, writer and author. As well as having several short stories and articles published she, along with four others, co-authored and published As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers and Speakers. Her memoir Redemptive Love: Living with an Alcoholic Father was published in 2015.