49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope. 50 This is my comfort in my distress,
that your promise gives me life.
“So are you going to blog about this?” My spouse asked me rather rhetorically. She does indeed know me well!
The last few weeks have been challenging, filled with Grace and exhaustion. My mother has fallen most unexpectedly ill and has ended up in ICU. To see the woman who has been formative in my journey become so ill, so quickly, has me filled with many emotions that range from powerlessness to anger, from rage to lament. And in between the beeps and dings, the singing of electronic alarms and warnings, two things occurred for me in that space: hope and concern.
The hope was simply being in the family room of the ICU ward for over a week and experiencing people in prayer as they discussed their faith and God. In this windowless space, tears and laughter were shared, not only with one’s own family, clan, pack and pride, but with strangers, with people who become the neighbour without a CV, an Interview or a Reference Check. The instant intimacy that accompanies sudden illness, where death looms large and uncertain – as assured as is too much coffee – cuts through affluence and pretence and serves to remind everyone that life is both beautiful and fragile, tenacious and precious. In that room, the Holy was present in every person I met and the eyes of Christ looked upon me in my own struggles as I too cared for people whose names I will never know.
The concern also comes from my time in ICU. For all of us, we experienced grief and lack of control over the lives of our loved ones. And, often in that room that was filled with life abundant while surrounded by the shroud of loss, it was often the family members that the Emerging Church is trying to reach out to who seemed less consoled by prayer or hope. In the moment the doctor came through the swinging doors, disinfectant the only perfumery, we all knew the news, the consoling whisper that begins seemed to fall with less import for those whom I assume have not experienced a faith community.
The concern, therefore, leads to a challenge: if there is such a large and significant portion of post-Christian society that has no formal affiliation with any faith community, then how are the milestones – such as birth, marriage, death – experienced? Now do not get me wrong, institutionalisation often carries with it much that is problematic when a bunch of people get together, but … there is always a but … such organisations often foster relationships and community, and, in turn, the Holy is experienced.
ICU was a time to be reminded of the simple basics: life and death are intimately woven into our journeys and if we, as church, have anything significant to say to our dominant individualised and consumer-oriented society it is this: we are not alone. No matter how much we might be tempted to deny it, the energy in an ICU room cuts through the baggage and dysfunction and clearly illustrates what is important. The Psalmist knew this, the family who lost their patriarch asked me at the same time how my mother was doing knew this: This was a gift, it was hope …
How the church shares that hope is our challenge, the Spirit whispers to us to reinvent and reimagine so that God’s presence is in people’s lives and that does not necessarily mean the church …
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?