It has been two years since I wrote the piece entitled “Not Alone,” and three years since the events it describes. But as I read it over on receiving the current issue of The Upper Room, the memories tore my heart open afresh. Much has changed in those three years, obviously. It is a different world today. Yet so much remains the same.
I spent 10 years or so as a minister in another fellowship over 30 years ago, and since writing this I have returned to ministry, pastoring two small United Methodist churches in as a bivocational local licensed pastor. It’s hard to believe it has now been three years since Barry passed away. About eight months after his death, as I drove somewhere on a hot day in August, I suddenly realized it was his birthday. It felt like a huge hand clutched my throat as grief welled up, and I had to pull off the road. At that moment, Kari Jobe’s song “I Am Not Alone” played over the road. The sorrow remained, but the timing seemed perfect, and I felt a peaceful presence with me.
I am so grateful for that continuing sense of presence. Our youngest daughter has a very rare chromosomal disorder that leaves her unable to do anything volitionally. In other words, she cannot consciously move anything except her eyes, and even that happens rarely because of the anti-seizure medication she must take. She requires 24/7 supervision to keep her from choking on her own saliva, and although we are blessed that she qualifies for round-the-clock nursing, the nursing shortage means that we frequently must care for her ourselves. My wife is also partially disabled, so the care must be rendered by another son and myself.
Needless to say, we are overwhelmed and exhausted. But we manage despite that, because we sense that we are not alone. God does not exempt us from the effects of living in a broken world, but God does sustain us in living within one.
The picture that accompanies this was taken at my oldest daughter’s wedding. It is one of my favorite photos of Barry. He brought joy everywhere he went, though he wrestled with depression exacerbated by his medical challenges. When I look at this photo and dozens of others, I can clearly see his spirit shining forth. As I tell parishioners who have experienced a loss, great pain comes with a loss because there was great love. The only way to avoid the pain is to avoid the love, and that would be a bad bargain. I am grateful for the love of my son, and grateful for the love of the Father who sent it to us through his own Son.
May you also experience the peace that comes with the Presence.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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