...after a week of drama over car trouble, working toward a new CPE clinical placement (more later), a weekend trip (that I abandoned mid-journey owing to car trouble) and so on. Yesterday morning I had to give the homily at our 8 AM service and lead the congregation in prayer at 9:30 and 11:00. RevStacey had some wonderful thoughts on her blog--the main preacher at 9:30 and 11:00 had picked the readings and so at 8:00 I had Philippians 4:4-9 and the difficult task of addressing how and why we can and must Rejoice in the Lord in the face of the unimaginable sufferings so many are enduring due to Katrina. To say nothing of the rest of the world.
I think, in agreement with RevStacey, that we cannot not rejoice in denial
of suffering--God has never
called God's people to deny suffering among them, but to be aware/have compassion/alleviate it. But I said at 8 AM that to become overwhelmed with awareness of the suffering--with no other view to balance--makes us vulnerable to the twin demons of rage and hopelessness, which paralyze us. And, also, in time of catastrophe, we who are not so personally affected must sometimes hold the hope and the knowledge of God's presence for those who cannot do so. I think that is part of community--when I am knocked flat, when I lose hope, when I lose sight of God, I need to know that someone will still hold that for me, offering it back to me gently, until I am able to take it up again.
For myself, I have found immense comfort in "ordinary goodness of life" in the past days. To return home safely with my dogs, to look deeply at the faces of my friends, to pause to enjoy the smell and taste of my morning coffee--all these things fill me with profound thanksgiving. All could so easily be lost, and all are so easily overlooked.
I so wish that our country would take Katrina as a wake-up call, to evaluate again how we prioritize use of our resources to care for our most marginalized and vulnerable citizens. In thinking about the patients I used to see in my basic field placement, I realize these precious children of God were characteristic of some of those left behind in the evacuation: poor, disabled, without powerful advocates, some of color, etc. I think of the irresistibly lovable older man who, when I first met him, was happily finger-painting with the remains of his dessert. I think of the ladies who no longer speak but who still communicate, who still maintain connection with those around them. How can we change our culture so that treasuring these people begins to seem like ordinary, loving, expected behavior and not a burden and a cost that can/should be cut? We have drifted as a society so far away from the values of the Scriptures we claim to love.
As for myself, personally--I have become aware in my own life that I am engaging, sometimes unconsciously, in a process of deep grieving that is the necessary counterpart of my joy at reinventing myself in middle age. As I become more aware that ministry (however it will be shaped) is at the heart of who I am, I also am hit in waves by grieving for all the years spent doing other things, all the years when I did not believe God could call me, all the years when I did not believe God wanted me to be happy, all the years that I will never get back. It is a time of intense sorrow, although I judge myself as trivial in the face of Katrina--but, again, that's a common tactic I have used in past to deny my own grieving. I need to just ride the waves of this one, trusting that the new place in which I end up will be closer to where God wants me.