My sister-in-law, Kenda, passed away almost 22 years ago now. It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long since we have been together. It would have been about this time of year that I would have done her income tax for her after her husband died. And she would have been flummoxed because she was so uncomfortable having people do things for her, in her mind it was to be the other way around.
I woke up this morning thinking about this little thing that I wrote after she had passed away at the far too young age of 62. I have always managed to give everyone close to me reasons not to love me, but Kenda never took the bait. As I was reading my Bible this morning, I was reading about love in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Reading about love is good, especially from the Word of God. Thinking and meditating about love is good too. But actually loving people, especially unlovable people, is far better.
This world is a little poorer today. A little part of the life of Jesus Christ has left this earth and has left us. Kenda Rae Shinn Martin died on May 8, 2000. There is a hole in our hearts, a black hole that is not filled by the rushing in of whatever is on either side.
Kenda, while having her share of faults, tried to live out Jesus Christ, the Servant, to those around her. At every family event, and I assume most other events as well, Kenda was the servant, the one who made sure every one else was taken care of before taking care of herself. “Do you have enough to eat?” “Can I get you something different?” “I got this special for you, because I knew you liked it.” Kenda was always the last one done eating—for two reasons. One, because she ate slowly, but mainly because she started last. She needed to see to everyone else first.
We called her the General. It was a title that suited her well. She was a benevolent general…most of the time. She wanted everyone to have a good time and was going to see to it—or else. It was not ego or power that drove her to be general, it was her desire to make sure that each of the troops was taken care of—whether they wanted to be fussed over or not.
Like most servants she struggled with being served. She wasn’t used to having people ‘do for her.’ When someone did something nice for her she would always say “You shouldn’t have…I don’t deserve this.” She had difficulty with people giving to her to the point where it became a family joke. Her sister said, “Kenda, just say thanks, and that’s all.” So after a few tries, Kenda would say “Thanks…and that’s all”—and everyone would laugh. But she was still more comfortable being the servant rather than being served. That reminds us of Christ’s words in Matthew 20 “I have come from the Father to serve—not to be served.”
That is one of the reasons why there is a hole, a black hole, in our hearts today. A little bit of Jesus Christ, the humble servant is gone from us. There are not that many servants out there, most of us are perfectly willing to have life revolve around us and around our ‘needs.’ Kenda reversed the trend, she broke the mold…she served.
Another way she broke the mold was in the way she loved people. Some of us see the faults in the lives of others and promise to love them—as soon as they change. Some pay so little attention to other people they never notice their faults.
Kenda saw the bad in others as clearly as most of the rest of us. But she loved the person far too much to dwell on the bad. When reminded of someone’s faults, the glaring errors of their lives, Kenda would just say “I know they tend to be that way—but they are my friend—and I love them.” And that settled it. Jesus Christ did that too. With the ones stricken with leprosy, the blind and lame, the prostitutes and other ‘sinners’ He saw something behind the faults—He saw a heart, a life, that was worth saving. That is why I cried today, not because I would want Kenda to come back from her walks on the golden streets of heaven in the presence of her Savior, but because there is one less person in this world who saw all my faults…and loved me anyway.