Bad News –
A new pastor, on his first Sunday, preached the sermon and following the dismissal prayer, greeted people at the door as they were leaving. A man in a bright red sports jacket was next in line and before the preacher could say anything he blurted out; “That was a terrible sermon!” Taken aback the pastor tried to figure out his next words but the man left before he could reply. After a while, he noticed the man in the bright red sports jacket in line again. This time he said; “You could not have possibly studied for that message. It was a mess!” Again the pastor was at a loss for words and the man was gone. As the line to meet the new pastor was ending he couldn’t believe the last person in line was the guy in the red sports jacket! “I don’t know if I’ll come back if that’s the best you can do!” Abruptly he walked out the door and this time the pastor watched him get into his car and drive away. The new reverend, obviously shaken by this man’s constant critique saw a group of folks in the foyer, wandered over, and asked’ “What is the deal with the man in the red sports jacket?” “Oh, don’t worry about him replied a parishioner. He only repeats what he hears other people saying.”
Bad news. Sometimes we expect it other times it takes us by surprise. No matter who we are, what we do, sooner or later we get bad news. It may be from our spouse, boss, doctor, friend, co-worker, or stranger. The challenge isn’t what to do if bad news comes but when it shows up. Our choices following an announcement of bad tidings are often more important, and have a greater impact, than the news itself. The space in between the news and the choices we make are critical. This is why wisdom, knowledge, peace, acceptance, clarity should be discovered now. When bad news comes chances are you will do what you know and many times the battle is won before the soldier takes the field.
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This past weekend my wife and I were going to do some needed cleaning. However, as the weekend wore on we both discovered motivation was lacking. I told her I would vacuüm the house one day this week and today was it. I began with a simple vacuüm across the floors but then noticed there were dust bunnies under a piece of furniture. I grabbed the broom and swept up the dirt only to discover there was more than I thought. Getting down on my hands and knees I swept all the way back and to the sides. There wasn’t a dust bunny it was more like a family of rabbits. I then began to do this to all the furniture and; “Wow!” The vacuuming chore took more time than I anticipated because of the extra work required. Real cleaning is a whole other level of commitment.
As I swept up all the little furballs and removed and returned furniture back to its original place I reflected on the need to deep clean our minds and spirits. It’s not too difficult to do a quick surface sweep but to get down to the hidden dirt and grime that reside in the dark places we must be willing to be uncomfortable and humble.
This morning my family gathered together to write my father’s obituary and order of service for his memorial. After a while, we took a break and I walked outside with my niece and spotted a huge Sycamore leaf. It was the biggest one at first we could see and then it became a competition on who could find the largest one of all. We searched a long time and when we were convinced we had discovered the most sizeable one we began looking for the smallest one. This was harder because we had to look under, beside and move other leaves to find the smallest. Finally, we believed we had the tiniest Sycamore leaf in the yard.
It was another busy day with people visiting, numerous phone calls, memorial service being organized, visiting the florist, and other errands. In the hustle and bustle of things, a family must do when one they love has passed it’s hard to find the peace one desires. The big things, the things which must get done are easy to find, it’s the small things; the glimpses of hope, the good memories, times when the good of a life well-lived shines in the darkness of a loved one parting.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Saint John, chapter 1
Not the Same
The grief in her eyes was impossible to miss. She had lost someone near and dear to her. One who was young, full of life, seemingly with many years left and then one day he was gone. We spoke in hushed tones almost afraid our usual tones would make this terrible truth more real. “I don’t think life will ever be the same again. Normal seems so far from here. How do I get back?” I looked into her shocked and sorrowful eyes and said; “You don’t. Life, as you knew it to be, is over. There is no going back. In time, with healing, you will learn to live in a new normal.”
There are moments, events, seasons in life which guarantee we will never be the same again. Tragedies, awakenings, epiphanies that change everything. What we held to, put our faith in, who we loved are lost. Our rhythm and sense of normal is disrupted. We long to go back, make everything; ‘as it was,’ hold on to that which seemed solid, lasting but it sifts through our hands like sand. Our desire to return is admirable but futile.The way back has been closed off to us forever.
Finding a new normal takes patience with ourselves. We must grieve not only the loss but the difficult path of newness. Even in these darkest of times there is a light in the distance, a rhythm faintly beating, a new normal waiting to be discovered.