Good morning all!
Today’s scripture:Psalm 130:1-6
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
I am a volunteer chaplain for the local hospital here in McMinnville. I am usually on call on Mondays which means that I turn on my pager at 7am on Monday morning and turn it off at 7am on Tuesday morning. If the pager (from 1990 as I call it) buzzes I call into the hospital to see where I am needed. In my 3 years of being a volunteer chaplain I can probably count on my hands the number of times the pager has gone off. A couple of weeks ago, during a very busy Wednesday, the Chaplain at the hospital called to see if I could turn on my pager until 6pm to cover for another volunteer. I said sure because….well, when does the pager buzz?
Not a half an hour later, the pager buzzed and my phone buzzed…both from the hospital. So I rang in and found out that a Chaplain had been requested to come in by 4 to talk with someone. So I drove on over to the hospital. Being a volunteer Chaplain is a little tricky because you don’t know what you are about to walk in to. When I visit with people that I am pastor to, I usually know a little bit about the person, or at least that they consider me to be their pastor. I know a bit about their situation. There is a pre established relationship…or at least an expectation of why I am there. This is not the case when being called in. Sometimes the family doesn’t want you there. Sometimes the nurse needs you there more. There is no knowing what to walk into. You have to just walk in with openness to see what the situation is.
When I got to the hospital, I went to the designated floor. The nurse was so grateful that I walked in and she showed me to a woman’s room. I was under the assumption that I was requested. I went into the room. I introduced myself and asked if I could sit down to chat. The woman replied, “Sure, but I don’t know why you are here. My daughter wanted the chaplain to come. I didn’t request you. But I guess we can talk.”
This particular day had been a bit crazy. I didn’t feel like getting defensive about how this woman didn’t want me around. I wanted to sit. I pulled up the most comfortable chair and sat down. I said back to her, “why don’t you just tell me what is going on then? I mean…we have time. Tell me your story.” She said that she might as well and started to tell me how she got to this place…..
All of a sudden this woman is talking about her emotions in this place. Then she starts talking about how she talks to God about it…..
Then she looks up at me and asks, “Is it ok that I yell at God and still want him around?”
“Do you know I believe in God?”
“What if I am angry at him?”
“God can handle it. Yell away.”
“Will God still love me then?”
“Sure will. God is bigger than that.”
“Ok. I am ready for you to pray now.”
“You got it.” I prayed and then left the room.
It is so tempting to want to fix things. To want to give people the answers. To want to make sure people have exactly what they need. Early on in ministry I realized that there is no way that I can fix it. And there is no way that I have the answers. And that is ok. God can handle it. We also do a disservice if we try to explain away our pain, fear , frustration and doubt. We miss the opportunities to walk alongside someone else or experience God in the presence of our pain.
This is what I love about the Psalms. The Psalms are pure emotion where God gets to show up anyway in the midst of pain. “Out of the depths I cry to you!” Pure emotion in its most beautiful form. This Psalms (many of lament) aren’t trying to explain away the pain but to make sure they are present to God. They assure us that we can yell at God and cry to God and God will still be there. God will still provide hope. God is so much bigger than all of that. Our jobs? Either emote or just be there in it. That visit would have gone very differently if I had not willing to just be for a bit. If I had walked in determined to fix, there would not have been space for process. It is not my job to fix or to solve. Most famously, Jesus went and was just with people. He wept. He observed. He was with. He listened. I try to follow that example most often.
In the Lenten journey, we have spots where we need to just be or to just yell at God. We hurt. God can handle it.