I have been in "stunned" mode since yesterday afternoon. I was expecting the Social Action committee to descend upon my house for a meeting about their exciting work on a project addressing 'An Inconvenient Truth". While I was waiting for them, about 3p.m., the phone rang. It was our church administrator giving me the terrible news that a long time, beloved, fairly young man in the congregation had died suddenly of a probable heart attack.
I knew this man well. He had been on the search committee which selected me as the minister here on Whidbey. He had been on my Committee on Ministry for three years. He was now on the board. He was the guy in the congregation who could always be counted on to step in with a scale model of our building plan, with financial support, with encouragement and energy and time. He was a man of great compassion and strength. And he is gone, just like that. His wife is in shock and family members are flying in from all over the country.
This is the moment in time when everything I am or can be has to come together, even though it means setting aside my own grief for a time so I can be present for others and help them make their way through the multitude of thoughts, feelings, plans, and the general numbness that accompanies loss.
Yesterday I was surprised by Joy. Today I am charged with helping others through the worst pain of all, but the pain that can help prepare us to receive Joy. I pray that I am able to do so.
Kahlil Gibran wrote:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. How else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Hard words to absorb when we are in the depths of sorrow, but wise words nevertheless.