Archive for March, 2020

“Lazarus, come out!”—John 11:43

Seventeen years ago today, I lay dead in a ditch.

A motor vehicle accident splintered my body, and the injuries were ones of the fatal variety. A sloppily broken neck, a cracked-wide-open pelvis, and a jigsaw-puzzled sacrum were the worst. For a time along that western North Dakota interstate, I was gone. Dead. Not only surrounded by the light and an unearthly, warming peace, I was in them, an actual part them. (Awesome experience. I’ll share it with you if you ever care to hear the story.) What awaits us is beyond our most vivid imagination, yet it was not my time to stay. There is more for me to experience and witness in this existence. One day at a time.

Contained in this journey of 17 years is the fullness of human life, traversing every mountain, valley, and plain the world holds for us. There were months of rehabilitation, and physical therapy that continues. The chronic pain is sometimes debilitating, most often manageable. I make some physical strides and areas of progress, only to find more losses of abilities which must be faced with courage and determination.

This pathway led me through emotional struggles, spiritual crises, hope, despair, joy, sorrow, and the grief of wondering about all I’ve lost and what my life would be like if my body were whole. Through this time, I’ve battled alcoholism, (years of opioid pain medications turned out to be more of a curse than a cure), and through it I have discovered the real and best version of me has always been in there, longing to come forth.

With many trials and challenges I can honestly say this: My life today, 17 years after tragic injuries, knows a better existence than ever before.

Given our human inclination to turn the world in our favor, it is tempting to exclaim, “Look what I did! See what I overcame! Please take note of my courage and strength and honor!” Tempting, yes, but here’s the bold truth:

It’s not about me.

All the triumphs in my life, all of what we flippantly name ‘successes’, have as their source a Merciful and Loving God. It is not my strength or power or courage that gets me out of bed every morning. It is a trust in God, who empowers those attributes in humanity. When we fail, as we are broken, and in the moments we try to fool ourselves our way is better, God remains true, holds us, and beckons us to the Divine Way and Love set before us.

Now, our world is in a state none of us has ever known. Trudging through a host of challenges, one could also succumb to the pitfall of laughing in the face of COVID-19. Such an attitude is neither advisable nor wise. To trust we are held in Divine and Loving Arms means to have the faith to grab on to God’s power and strength and wisdom, so that we may be wise in the face of what may kill us all.

May we move forward in faith, and may we all do our part in this struggle.

It’s not about me. Or you. It’s about a Gracious God.

It’s about us.

Grief Happens

Posted: March 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

It felt like grief.

We entered our church’s sanctuary, a beautiful and holy space, to shoot a video message to our congregation concerning issues surrounding closings and postponements due to COVID-19. Going into that sanctuary, a sacred fortress which gathered in the masses more regularly than just once a week, the word entered my being and attached itself to the feeling of the last forty-eight hours.

It felt like grief.

It is grief.

That room, safe and holy, would not hold God’s people for unknown weeks ahead. For fifty-five years it housed occasions of greatest joy and deepest sorrow. Who knows how long it will stand silent and empty, awaiting to fulfill its intended purpose?

Our world, our existence continues to spin the unexpected around and within us. Now, a previously unmade word is in our every sentence and thought. COVID-19. It is destined to ring horror and chill through the years for all who remember. Everyday routines are being more than upset. A shattering occurs when we consider the strangeness of this time. The uncertainly of this current state, its duration, its intensity, will keep us all a bit on edge for some time to come. A sanctuary is to be the one place souls may join in proximity for comfort, consolation, and hope. Now, social distancing is not even social, it is only distant. Overturned stomachs and aching hearts must experience our primeval longing for community in new ways, and we’re not sure what to do with that. We know we’ve lost something, and we’re not yet fully aware of what it is we’ve lost. Or how much.

It feels like grief.

It is grief.

And grief is a strange, wild and untamed animal. It will force untold emotion through us at any given moment, for any random reason. As we struggle with the unseen enemy we know as COVID-19, we struggle with much welling up from deep within us. Feral grief can only lead us into fear’s darkness if we do not name it, address it, and deal with it, even as we must allow the grief to happen. If not, only the ugliness of a life driven by fear awaits us.

It feels like grief.

It is grief.

This is why we must be diligent to care for our own souls as well as the souls of others in our midst. Even if it must be from a socially distant safe place. Loving God and Neighbor and Self are vitally important at this moment. Certainly, we must discover new ways to do this, in addition to rediscovering old ways, long forgotten. Still, love must win the day. Take care of each other, because grief happens.

As it does, choose hope. Choose light. Choose love.