Monday, December 1, 2008

The Line We Don't Want Crossed

There is an imaginary line we tend to draw around the calendar
encircling the time from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

There are certain things we think ought not to cross over that line into our lives during that time:
troubled marriage,
divorce,
cancer,
job loss,
death...

I thought about that the day before Thanksgiving. I was stopped along the side of Main Street watching a funeral procession go by. I thought how sad it was that this family will, for some years, remember Thanksgiving as the time when a loved on died.

It was also the day my friend and colleague, the Reverend Doctor Ken Christler was laid to rest.

Ken was not much older than I am. He was on a ladder and fell on his head on the pavement. He was in a coma for several days before he died and was buried the day before Thanksgiving.

For admittedly selfish reasons I couldn't bring myself to attend his funeral.

I am still trying to sort out Ken's death. The language that "God allowed this to happen" isn't palatable to me. (Neither, of course, is the language that God caused this to happen.)

I am not looking for a purpose in Ken's death.

I am really not sure right now what I am looking for.

I feel terrible for Ken's wife and kids and siblings. They will, for several years, remember Thanksgiving as the time when Ken died.

Collectively, I think we all feel bad when tragedy strikes "during the holidays."

Sad stuff shouldn't cross that line into what is supposed to be a joy-filled time.

But...

Sad stuff DOES happen...ALL the time.

Tragedy does not consult a calendar.

Cancer and depression, unemployment and economic crises, marital problems and even death do not keep their distance during the holidays.

But...

neither does God.

My favorite Biblical nickname for Jesus is "Immanuel" - which means, "God with us." To me, that is much more than a statement of the incarnation. It tells me that God is not afraid of the sad stuff that seems to cling to our lives. It tells me that God is with us during those sad and tragic times - even when they cross the imaginary line into the holidays.

In fact, Jesus was born into a world where tremendous tragedies were occurring on a regular basis. Could those tragedies be part of the "fullness of time" in which Jesus came? (see Galatians 4:4)

That Jesus is God with us doesn't change the fact that people lose their jobs, or get cancer, or divorce, or die - during the holidays or any other day.

It doesn't change the circumstances, but it can change my perspective and my response. And, it does give me hope and some sense of comfort and peace.

And that's what I will cling to while I am trying to sort out Ken's death.

That's what I will cling to even if I don't sort out Ken's death.

That's what I will cling to every time death and other sad stuff crosses the line into life

- mine or anyone else's

1 comment:

Lore said...

A few years ago I read my great-great grandfather's diaries from the late 1800's. Using language pulled from your blog, it seems there was no imaginary line encircling the holidays.

Each day he recorded sales of livestock, corn and wheat. He recorded weather that hampered his work. He recorded neighbors helping and being helped. He recorded thoughts that came from daily Bible readings. But most telling was Christmas day - a regular routine of farm chores with no mention of celebration.

Puzzled, I dug deeper and found letters from family and friends that wished a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, but were filled with the normal cycles of farm life - the death of livestock, sickness in the family, and prayers for family members who had not been seen or heard from because they lived too far way.

I remember sitting silent, wondering when the glitz of the world and the desire to be insulated replaced the realities of life. I was in awe of my great-great grandfather, without the imaginary line he had a holiday unlike any other day and he was content.

Thanks for the diaries and letters gramps!
Thanks for the blog Jeff! It dusted off a few cobwebs!