There are a select few people that I have met who simply by the shaking of their hand and a few words of greeting from their mouth have made such a deep and lasting impression on me. Ray Engel is one of them. For those of you who knew Ray you’ll quickly resonate with me on this. Besides his actual hand shake (which I would always brace for because it was like a vice closing on me), his smile and encouraging words never seemed to be absent. His joy was contagious. His intentionality of greeting everyone who came into church was inspiring. You got the feeling that he knew his role and his role was to lovingly welcome people. I will miss him greatly.
I was reading through 2 Corinthians 5 a few days ago, Ray came to mind. (May I encourage you to open up to that passage and read it yourself, verses 1-8 in particular?) Many aspects of the passage reminded me of him. That he was in a “tent” in which he “groaned” certainly described him here at the end. And so did the “longing” to be “further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
But most of all I was struck by verse 6: “So we are always of good courage.” This was Ray. I almost found it hard to believe he had cancer and was going through tough times with chemotherapy. Why? Because he was of such good courage! When he was able to come to church, even in the last month or two before his death, there he was greeting people—breaking, I mean shaking people’s hands and smiling. What a testimony to what Paul says in the next few words: “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Ray believed that He was in the Lord’s hands. He believed that though he was suffering, it would soon be over. As verse eight says, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
That’s it. He knew he’d be out of his cancer-ridden body and at home with the Lord. There’s reason for smiling! And we can learn a great lesson from Paul here (not to mention Ray). Can it get any better beloved? No matter what we face in this life in this mortal body—one day, it will be swallowed up with life! One day we’ll be with Christ, which “is far better” (Phil 1:23)!
So can we greet each other with “good courage” this coming Sunday as Ray did us … even though life is hard and our body is to various degrees “groaning”? Yes! If we walk by faith and not by sight. If we remember that we have Jesus, and that we will soon be with Him, and that forever. Amen?