It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years to the day since Uncle Wesley died. I was pretty lost during that time. I lacked faith in myself and in God. I struggled with my beliefs, my utter disdain for people in church and my lack of understanding in why someone like Uncle Wesley had to suffer so viscously. I also struggled with guilt because I was so relieved that my parents were both healthy.
I was in a bad place, and one Sunday after a week that we were’t sure if he would live through, my uncle preached an entire sermon about faith. I talked about it on my blog right after it happened. He believed in God, and he had faith that God’s will was best until his last breath. It’s still hard for me to think of the last night that I saw him without getting teary-eyed. He told Mom that he loved her, and with one tear streaming down his closed eye, he smiled as he went on to meet Jesus.
He knew how I felt about church and God, but he never failed to remind me of God’s love for me. He accepted me even though I was a complete mess, and it was obvious that he was at peace in spite of his imperfect life. I talked about that on my blog as well.
“…feeling the peace that surrounds him already and the faith he has as he spends his last few days on earth has truly been a testament of his authentic belief to me. People professing to be “christians” usually just piss me off, but Uncle Wesley has shown me what an imperfect human’s life should look like at its best and its worst.”
I was filled with a lot of bitterness and anger at that time. I was completely lacking in direction, and I was hanging on to hope by a thread. I had no idea that the next few years would lead to extraordinary life change, but it did.
In December of 2012 I met my friend, Jeff, at the mall through my friend, Shannon, and I couldn’t have imagined that he’d become such a close friend! As we stood by the makeup counter at Macy’s (waiting for our friends) he invited me to church. Here’s how it went:
Jeff: Hey, you should come to church sometime.
Kenlie: Uh, I’ll be friends with you, but I’m not going to your (expletive) church.
During that conversation I explained to Jeff why I thought GOD was real, but I also explained why there was no way in hell I was going to church.
As a kid, I was in church (or church activities) several times a week. My dad was the pastor so I was there for EVERYTHING whether I wanted to be or not. I had to put a smile on my face and go regardless of what was happening in my life. I had to sing whether I wanted to or not. I saw good things happen, and I saw a lot of horrible things happen – things that hurt me, things that made me angry. I did what I was told to do because well-behaved kids do that, but I was never overly concerned about GOD’s presence in my life.
After meeting Jeff I spent the next several months going out of my way to curse and drink in front of him. I waited for him to judge me or tell me off, but he didn’t. Instead we became friends and eventually, because it’s hard to say no to Candi, who is now his wife, I walked into church.
Now it’s no secret that I have a relationship with God. I love Jesus, and I often talk about how incredible it is that He loves me in spite of myself. Uncle Wesley’s birthday passed earlier this week, and I smiled as I thought about what he would think of me now. The truth is he’d love me now just as he did then, but I wish he was still here so he could see the changes that have taken place in me.
I wish I could tell him that he was right, that I get it now, that I know God loves me, and that I love Him back. I wish he could be here Sunday as I lead worship at my church because he loved hearing me sing and because he loved worshipping Jesus. I wish I could have conversations with him about faith. I wish we could sing southern gospel together like we did even when I was far from God. I wish I could talk about the verses in the Bible that have impacted me recently. I just wish he was here.
There’s a lot of hope, peace and contentement when you believe in God. You get to cling to the fact that you’ll see your loved ones again in Heaven. I’m able to acknowledge that what’s happening in Uncle Wesley’s life today is far better than what would be happening if he were still alive.
I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since he left earth. My life is different now, more settled…I’ve gained some weight, but I’ve also gained peace, friends who know all of my junk and love me anyway, a church family that is filled with other imperfect people who are working on being faith distributors. I’ve begun the process of healing from a time in which my entire world was rocked. I have a steady routine that I didn’t have back then, and I’m more honest with myself and the people around me than I’ve ever been before.
I miss my uncle, and many people that I love still miss him too. I know, in as much as my human brain can comprehend, that Uncle Wesley is in a far better place where he is. I know that, but I miss him anyway.