And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Yesterday I had a front row seat at the Peace that passes understanding.
On September 20th, after a long struggle with infirmities that will befall all of us, Bernhard Spoelstra passed away. He was my sister’s father-in-law. The patriarch of an extended family, Mr. Spoelstra left behind a devoted wife and four loyal children. This is his legacy. And it is priceless.
One by one, Mr. Spoelstra’s children came to the pulpit of the Midland Park, NJ Christian Reformed Church. I am closest to Fred, as he is my brother-in-law, but Margaret, Frank, Ben, and their spouses have always been welcoming to the Christensen branch of the family.
As Lois and I came through the receiving line, we were greeted by Mrs. Spoelstra. Embracing us warmly, her first instinct was to thank us for coming, as though we had trekked through miles of hostile wilderness on foot. Mrs. Spoelstra, every inch the matriarch and hostess, inquired after our wellbeing.
During the course of the memorial, each eulogy from Mr. Spoelstra’s children became a testimony. Each one testified to their love of family, faith in God, and the hope that we all have in Christ. I was reminded of the old Lutheran Hymn by Edward Mote:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
In Colossians 1:5, Paul wrote: For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.
Though Mr. Spoelstra and I had a peripheral acquaintance, he was grandfatherly to my children when they were small, and unfailingly courteous to my spouse. How could I feel anything but warmly towards the man?
Our hope comes from Christ. It’s a peace the rest of the world cannot understand, but which we are happy to share. It is the knowledge
and an assurance we carry within ourselves, that beyond this life lay not a conclusion, but a commencement. That is why we do not despair. While we’ll miss Mr. Spoelstra, we know that we will see him again.
Pastor Gorter, presiding, gave time for anyone in the congregation to share memories. I am a terrible public speaker unless you write it down for me, so I did not take advantage of the opportunity. So here is my memory now:
A few years ago, we were celebrating my nieces’ high school graduation. Mr. and Mrs. Spoelstra shared a mother-daughter house with their youngest child Ben, and his wife Sharon. Lois and I found ourselves making our way through the house to the backyard and came upon the elder Spoelstras taking coffee in one of the sitting rooms. At first we were afraid that we were intruding, but the two of them insisted we stay, talk, and share a cup. For the next fifteen minutes, they questioned us on
the progress of our family, which schools our children were attending, how the Army was treating me, the chances of me going overseas again, and Lois’ fledgling writing career.
The term “getting button-holed” usually carries a negative connotation, but in this case, when Lois and I made our way out to the backyard to the barbecue, she leaned in and whispered, “that was so nice of them.” I smiled. “Yes, it was.”