church, empathy, faith, forgiveness, God, inspiration, sin, solace, tragedy
I fully intended to write about the Kagan nomination today, but the first blog I hit turned that all around. It just struck me as something that people of faith should read, for we all at one time or another, and perhaps periodically, deal with such issues. More a bit later.
I also was bowled over and flabbergasted by the latest idiocy spew from Glenn Beck. I happened to run across it in a hugely funny Lewis Black piece on The Daily Show Wednesday. Go find it and watch it, it was hysterical. Our intrepid nut case actually said, that empathy was dangerous, and in his usual insane style, attached it to Nazi Germany and claimed that “too much empathy leads to bad decisions.”
So, when I saw Eileen’s piece, I felt empathy for the things she said, and well, I thought everyone needs to think about this. What is church, what is faith. How do we weave our spiritual lives within that framework? How do we respond to change? How do encourage our churches to help us live our callings and to help us move along the path?
I have shared with only a couple folks here a horrific tragedy that has befallen my church family. One of our deacons has suffered an accident so breathtakingly heartbreaking, that it is hard to imagine.
His daughter, traveling in Iowa with her three small children was broadsided a bit more than a week ago. Two of the children died, and the mother faces multiple surgeries and a long rehab no doubt. It seems hard to comprehend how a family can face such utter devastation. In but a few seconds, a dozen or more people are directly and horribly affected. Lives are suddenly upended and we turn to God and seek solace and understanding.
I have struggled all week with these events, trying to find a way to do some honor to those whom I never met, but feel somehow connected to. For Mark and his family are part of our church family, and we have been wounded. And in saying so, I am again struck by the fact that if I feel this pain, what on earth must they be enduring?
I recall but a few weeks ago that I was feeling disconnected from church in some ways, mostly from my own failings in ministry. This week, my disconnect is different. I feel useless in this tragedy, unable to see anything that I can do. I pray, I pray for the family, I pray for all those affected. I pray for the organ donees, six of them who received life giving help. How that must feel to them. It doesn’t seem enough though, somehow.
I guess it is normal, feeling this helplessness. But as much as it hurts, I am glad for it. Glad for knowing that I am capable of empathizing with others. Glad that I can bring that pain to myself, and feel that I am part of them, and they of me. Their hurt is mine, and that is what I believe God intends.
I look at myself, and I see a woman who enjoys the rough and tumble of debate and ranting about the inadequacies of my government and of my neighbors in this land. I yell at injustice and I satirize people I don’t agree with, sometimes humorously and sometimes rather harshly. Yet, I am also aware that these people, this larger family encompassing state, country, and world, are my family as well. And I want to ever be able to empathize with all the wrong-thinkers out there, everywhere, even those that do things that make me want to strike out, and often cause me to do that, verbally at least.
Perhaps in the end what I have learned from all this is to set my prayer facing a new direction. And that direction would be to be more peaceful in my mind. More tolerant in my thoughts. Perhaps not rhetoric so much, for I think the fine sharp barb is what sometimes awakens minds. The soft talk only reaches open ears. For the closed mind, something more jarring is required.
Yet, I have been guilty of holding anger in my heart a good deal longer than I should. I have not been as forgiving in my soul. I have perched aloft with my self-righteousness a little too smugly.
And now , O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my wickedness only too well. Therefore, I make this prayer to you: Forgive me, Lord, forgive me. (Prayer of Manasseh)
Out of tragedy comes grace, and out of grace new insight and joy. I see the glimmerings before me. I walk toward the light.
Lord, you see your people struggle with the desire to be all you would have us be, over and against the callings of the world. Help us to ever place our trust in you, confident that if we do, we will find the solace and strength to put others before ourselves, and to remember that each and every one of us is your beloved. Let us speak against injustice and call for equality everywhere, to all peoples, and to respect in our hearts even those whose beliefs and ideas we find repugnant. Most of all, let us be kind, knowing that we are all one family. Amen