Summary: Funeral message for Thelma Green Mann, known for her direct manner and strong will. The name Thelma is derived from the Greek, "Thelema", meaning will. A turning point is reached when one no longer focus on her own will, but on God’s will. Takoma Park
Grandchildren will teach you much about life. One of mine, Jackie, age 5, taught me about human nature recently. My wife and I had gone to take care of the girls while their parents were away, and we came, as always, armed with things to do – arts and crafts, games, books, the whole gamut of tools to occupy little girls. Our older grandchild, Olivia, was most cooperative. She was ready to do anything we offered. If it was to learn how to weave, Olivia learned how to weave. If it was to read, Olivia plopped down in a chair and immersed herself in a book. If it was to play a game, Olivia was ready to play and predicting that she would win. A totally cooperative spirit.
But then there was Jackie. She’s always been a quiet child anyway, but that day she was more reserved than usual. She passively resisted everything we offered. She didn’t really say no; she just turned her back. “Let’s do some crafts, Jackie.” She turned and looked out the window. “How about a book, Jackie? You want Grandpa to read to you?” “Hmpf; if I wanted to read a book I would do it myself.” (She’s not quite up to the Encyclopedia Britannica yet, but she’s moving in on it.). “Then how about a game. Let’s play a game, Jackie. Grandma and Olivia and I want to play ‘Crazy Eights’” I thought we were getting somewhere this time. She came over to the table, messed around with the cards a bit, but then proclaimed, “I don’t want to play this game.”
Now this is getting to be a little dicey, don’t you think? Grandpa has not only exhausted his store of tricks, other than giving horsey rides, which is no longer a good idea for a nearly-seventy-year old back and a sturdy girl; but also the problem is that you really need four people to play this card game. It doesn’t work very well with three. But, no, “I don’t want to play this game.”
So the three of us went ahead anyway. We dealt our hands, we matched our numbers and our suits, we gloated when we took a trick, the whole bit. And Jackie just sat there, watching and waiting. Every now and again I would say, “Jackie, you can play if you want to.” That little head would snap to the side, and that little mouth would spit out, “Nope.”
So on we played, game after game, the three of us enjoying one another’s company and one of us willfully on the side – probably for half an hour. But then I heard it; at last I heard what I had been wanting to hear: “Grandpa, can I play now?” Jackie had seen what fun it was to be a part of the family, and had finally toned down that will of hers to accept our invitation. I do not have to tell you what Grandpa’s response was, do I? “Of course you can play, Jackie. Join the fun.”
These wills of ours are interesting indeed. With a willing spirit we can join in whatever is available to us. Or with a strong will we can resist almost anything offered. The question is how you direct that will. How do you guide that will? And when is it time to let go of that will and receive what is offered?
The Greek word for “will”, found many times in the New Testament, is thelema. As in, “Thy will be done” – thy thelema be done. As in, “Discerning what is the will of God” – the thelema theou, the will of God. From that word thelema is derived the name, “Thelma”. Thelma, thelema, will. Isn’t that appropriate? Doesn’t that seem about right to you? Thelma Mann was indeed a strong-willed person. She knew what she wanted and said so. She knew what she did not want and said that too.
One day word got to me that Thelma had been sick. I had not known it, but when I found out, sad to say, I did not respond right away. I got busy with other things, I procrastinated – until the phone rang and there was Thelma, “Pastor, are you coming to see me or not?”
Let me tell you, it’s not very far from here to Butternut Street, and I think I made it in record time that day. Thelma had let me know what she expected. Her will was strong. And when I arrived and began to talk with her about her illness, trying to provide pastoral comfort, she honed in on one thing: did she matter to me or not? Was her illness important to me or not? Strong medicine, but valuable, for a pastor who did not always get his priorities in order. She knew what she wanted; she said so clearly; and her will was done.