by Matt Lewellyn-Otten
Circular Congregational Church, Charleston SC
While important work has been happening today – proposals ratified, discussions sparked, and changes reviewed – I was able to take a few moments on this Sabbath day to rest a bit. The highlight of my resting was a luncheon with chaplains and specialized ministers who have the arduous task of sitting with those in moments of deep pain and the beautiful commissioning to celebrate deep joy. Here I heard the stories of beloved children of God who are meeting people exactly where they are. These ministers kneel beside the hospice bed, hold the hand of the mother who just lost their son, offer the comforting hug to the young man who just got word if his HIV diagnosis, and give counsel to the veteran navigating their own flourishing after their courageous service.
I left today’s luncheon inspired by the lives of service these chaplains and specialized ministers lead. I also left convinced, more than ever, that the work of the Christian is to meet people where they are, even if that place is deep despair and pain. Often we rush to counsel people to move out of their pain because we are so uncomfortable with emotions rather than joy. We often find ourselves looking for just the right words to say to those in pain rather than just being a peaceful presence, pouring a hot cup of coffee, and doing a load of laundry for those we love. Our job isn’t to know all the right words to say in order move people toward healing. That movement is God’s responsibility. We can only love people exactly where they are and leave space for the Holy Spirit to move, breathe, and heal.
With the complexity of life, how are we stopping and holding the hand of those who are hurting? How are we allowing others to work through their pain on their own terms and time rather than rushing them toward “healing?” How do we support the people of God to sit in the pain of the crucifixion so that their resurrection (whenever that may come) is much sweeter?