On Saturday I received very bad and sad news regarding some members in the parish. It has hurt them deeply. As their pastor - it hurts me as well. I mourn with them. I wish I could make it better. I can't. It has me thinking this morning...
From the outside life looks as if it is flowing along smoothly. People wake up, drink coffee, go to work, go golfing, read the paper, check out their stocks, watch SportsCentre, pick up the kids, cut the grass, do the dishes, and so on. It all seems rather simple, planned, expected. Every day will be this way.
The reality is that every day, everywhere, all the time there are major crises occurring to people all around you. Life altering events. Earth shaking. Announcements of disease. A marriage falling apart. Children getting into serious trouble. Injuries. Accidents. Miscarriage. Death. There are many people that are in the middle of a major crisis and they cannot understand how everybody else is living life as normal and their life is totally upside down. People all around you are dealing with seriously heavy stuff. Every time you hear an ambulance's or a police cruiser's or a fire engine's siren - we should be reminded of this.
Before I served in the parish I never truly realized that this was the case. In many ways I had floated through life without any major traumatic event. That illusion has been removed. I realize the fragility of so called - "normal." I have seen how a Dr's diagnosis, a car accident, a heart attack, a death - can suddenly change someone's "normal" forever.
Perhaps you have no idea of what I am talking about. You will. Unfortunately you too will have your "normal" changed forever in some way on some day.
That's life. There is much good. There is much bad. We like to hide ourselves from the bad and we try and ignore it and pretend it won't happen to us or our loved ones. It will. That's lilfe. If ignorance is bliss - that bliss will not last long.
Better to face the reality. Better to know what life is really like and not what we want it to be. Better to recognize that what is now will not always be. Better to get rid of a false sense of security. Better to not rely on "normal." Better to realize the truth and shed the illusion of a nice peaceful life. It does not exist this side of heaven. It is only a fantasy.
What then can we rely on? What can we do when "normal" is destroyed forever? What can we do when we look to the future and the uncertainty causes an overwhelming panic? What can we do with the pain we must endure?
Do you have an answer? You need one. This is not a hypothetical. This is not a "What would you do if...." This is - what will you do when. Do you have an answer?
As a pastor I learned very quickly I do not have all the answers. In many of the crisis situations I have been involved with there is no way I can make it better. I cannot say a few well spoken words and "fix it" and make everyone feel better. But I can be there with them. I can suffer with them. I often do not need to say anything. In many cases I should not say anything. Just be. Care. That is enough. What you say will not be remembered. But that you were there will be.
But that comes from not being surprised at life. That comes from knowing that this life is a mess. That comes from knowing that sin has destroyed any hope of living an easy life. That comes from knowing that while we must endure much - our Lord endured more. That comes from knowing that while it seems as if all hell has broken loose - our Lord has overcome it. That comes from the confidence that even though I cannot "fix it" our Lord already has. That comes from knowing that we do not walk through this valley alone.