Christy Writes: When There Are No Answers

Posted by on Nov 19, 2017 in Christy Writes, Recent Posts | 0 comments

Christy Writes: When There Are No Answers

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn here in eastern Pennsylvania. The temperatures hung in the 80s well into October, as though they didn’t want to let go of summer either, as if they thought if they just ignored the calendar, winter would get tired of waiting and go somewhere else.

But the seasons changed overnight and the cold wind blew me to church and back this morning. I always find it interesting that spring winds feel jubilant, celebratory. They whip around you like bubbling laughter, excited and alive. But autumn winds feel sad, dreary, dark. A bit foreboding. Winter’s gonna getcha.

After church this morning, as I was in the fellowship hall having coffee and chatting with everyone, a man who is a regular attendee but hadn’t been in church today appeared in the doorway looking haggard. His grandson was with him, and they motioned me over.

“My girlfriend died this morning,” the grandson told me. Then his face went the wrong sort of shape and I put my arms around him and he sobbed. She had been fighting cancer for awhile – she had come to church with him once and we prayed for her every week – so her death wasn’t unexpected but still. Damn, that hurts. I held him and cried with him and thought about how hard it is to see someone so young be facing something like this.

A few parishioners and I prayed with him and his grandparents before they went back home to deal with all that waited for them. I sat alone in the sanctuary after they’d gone, just thinking.

His grandfather told me the young man had asked to come to church to tell me the news. I found it incredibly beautiful that in his time of pain, he sought out the church. This is what the church is supposed to be – a place people go when they need love and nurturing. It breaks my heart to think about how many people have run from the church instead. And why they’ve run.

This young man, in his brokenness, had come to us for love and comfort, and we gave it the best our human natures knew how. But what made me the saddest, sitting there in the sanctuary watching as he helped his grandmother into the car, was that I didn’t have any answers for him. He hadn’t verbalized any questions, but they were there. They had to be. They always are. Why? we ask when things go so horribly off the rails. Why did this happen? Why me? Why her? Why now? Could we have stopped it? Could we have fixed it? What if? Why?

There has been so much death and loss lately, so much violence, so much ugliness. I have friends who have lost loved ones of all ages and from various causes. Five minutes of TV news is enough to make me want to hide under the bed.

And I’ve come to realize there are no answers. I wish there were. It wouldn’t make the situations hurt any less, but at least if we could be handed a neatly typed sheet of paper that says “Here’s what happened and why, and here’s what you need to do now,” we’d have something concrete to cling to. As it is, we are all just flailing out there in our pain and our sorrow, and we can’t help but wonder what if, why, and what now?

I’m nearly three years into the most intense theological training of my life and I don’t have any more answers to those questions than I did before. I don’t know any seasoned clergy person who would claim to have all the answers, or even AN answer, because the truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know what if. We don’t know why.

But what I am holding onto tonight, as I sit in my warm, quiet house and think back on the day, is that this young guy walked into our church this morning overwhelmed with grief, feeling lost and broken, and we let him know that he’s not alone. We let him know that God loves him and that we love him. We wrapped him up in love before he went back out the door to face what is still to come.

Because when all is said and done, that’s our job as the church. To love. To show love and to be love. I always say “Christian” is not a noun – it’s a verb. Don’t just tell me you’re a Christian. Show me.

We are not here to tear each other down. We are not here to fight with each other, or to judge each other, or to throw even one of those proverbial stones. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest commandment is to love each other. You can’t say you do the first one if you don’t do the second. We are here to love each other. And if we don’t do that, then I’m sorry but we have failed not only as children of God, but as human beings.

When someone is hurting and they ask why, it’s okay to say “I don’t know why. But I’m here.” That’s the only answer. That’s love.

Love each other, guys. We’re all in this together.

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