This past weekend, a man walked into my church, and when I saw him I started to cry. He was hard to miss, tall and broad, a former Dallas Cowboy, but that wasn’t how I knew him. I knew him because he had given the eulogy at the funeral of a man I deeply respected, John Weber, and I hadn’t seen him since that day. It shocked me how much it impacted me to see this stranger and how quickly all of the emotion from the day of Mr. Weber’s funeral came rushing back.
John Weber was a wonderful man. He had an important job – he was the chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys. But when I met him, I didn’t know that. I knew him as my friend Sarah’s dad. I was in high school, new to faith, new to church, and new to the idea of a Christian family that prayed together more frequently than at Christmas and Thanksgiving. And what I saw in the Weber’s home was absolutely amazing to me. I studied it like a creature from another world.
They loved extraordinarily. They laughed freely and cried bravely. They somehow seemed more together than other families. They all seemed to have this amazing ability to look directly into your soul and they cared about everyone around them. They valued people – me included. They loved Jesus. We had a few Bible studies in their home and stayed there for a Disciple Now – and every time I was there I basked in the love and the light of their family, feeling part of something extraordinary. As an adult I know that the warmth of their home was due to real community and the nearness of Christ, but then I only knew that it was different and wonderful and I never wanted to leave.
After Sarah had gone away to college, my encounters with the Webers became less frequent but always that feeling of being a part of them and valued by them remained. I loved them and looked up to them. Mr. Weber was not a tall man (in fact the Webers are all tiny people with massive hearts) but he was huge to me. Every time he saw me he focused on me, hugged me tightly, and asked about me and my family by name. I could tell he genuine loved me, and frankly, that both shocked me and made me feel important. Since his death I’ve heard dozens of people say it and it’s true. When you talked to Mr. Weber you felt like you were the most important person in his world. I certainly felt that. He had a gift of making others feel significant.
After I was married, I saw Mr. Weber a few times when he would come to speak at churches where I worked. He always touched people’s lives and it was fun to see the effect he had on others. Men, in particular, were impacted by him. He would speak at a men’s retreat at our church and men would return home changed – more loving and present and serious about leading their families in the way God intended. Mr. Weber was powerfully used by the Lord.
One fall morning my mom called to tell me Mr. Weber had passed away suddenly. I remember the shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that he was gone. What a light he had been to so many. I thought of Mrs. Weber and his kids – I couldn’t imagine how they felt. I ached for their hurt. I called the Weber’s house to offer to make a video for his service and to tell them I loved them. To my surprise, they took me up on my offer. I was humbled to get to honor him in this way.
As I went to the Weber’s home to get the pictures for the video – I was a little anxious. This place was always one of love and warmth for me, and I walked in afraid to intrude on their grief. But there were people everywhere, crying, hugging, laughing, sharing. The same love and energy that had been there in the bright days of my high school memories was there that day, on the hardest day. I was so grateful. It felt like the Lord was near. The magic wasn’t broken. Death hadn’t won.
I’ve written before about his memorial, but I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how it impacted me. I honestly feel like, at the end of my life, it will be one of the pivotal moments in my journey with the Lord. Person after person filled that room, some very famous by the world’s standards, but all equal in our hurt and our powerlessness in the face of grief and death. It made us humble. It made us listen. We all wanted to matter like Mr. Weber mattered. That room was so full not because of fame, but because of impact, and every word spoken about him was so honoring. He had gotten it – the elusive key to a life well lived. And we all wanted to get it too.
In my mind that day is frozen – as real as if it occurred yesterday. That’s why I cried when I saw the poor Cowboy who had no idea he was inspiring a minor breakdown. I remembered.
Person after person spoke – all calling Mr. Weber their hero. But their words weren’t trite – they were genuine. He had changed their life. They talked about the value of a name and a reputation, and someone very famous with a well-known name said “Nobody ever had a better name than John Weber.”
His kids all spoke at that service, and their love and honor of their dad was overwhelming. I was a brand new mom, clinging to my husband’s hand, and in my head I was begging the Lord, “Please let us parent like this.” Each one spoke of Mr. Weber’s faithfulness and his wisdom. I didn’t know this until that day, but he had a saying he told his kids countless times and each of them talked about it in their eulogy.
Don’t strive to be extraordinary. Strive to be faithful.
It was his life goal. When I heard it – it rang so true. That was what Mr. Weber was – he was faithful. A faithful man. A faithful husband. A faithful father. A faithful friend. And his faithfulness made him extraordinary.
Last week after I saw the poor man who made me cry, I took a walk around the church building to pull myself together. But I couldn’t shake the memories. I cried as I walked and prayed. Again I begged the Lord to use me like He used that faithful man, both in my home and in the world around me. I begged Him to raise up men like Mr. Weber in our new little church. On the day of Mr. Weber’s memorial service I had seen a glimpse of the potential of a life lived in faithful service of our God, and I was changed by it.
Mr. Weber’s life made me want more God, more love, more humility, more purpose and most of all more faithfulness in my small life. He was ready for death because he lived a life faithfully focused on Christ. I have no doubt in my mind that the moment he closed his eyes on this earth he opened them in the presence of Jesus. And that gives me hope.
Lord, please let me be, both at the end of my life and everyday until then, a faithful woman. I confess that my flesh cries out to be extraordinary, but I want more to be faithful. I thank you for Mr. Weber’s faithful life. Please be near to his family today and everyday, give them more of You and fill the void of their loss. You are good and we are grateful.