Monday, January 26, 2009

the human condition

tomorrow morning i will conduct the funeral of a sixty-four year old man. he was a husband and a church member, and he lived a troubled life, struggling with various physical and mental ailments. his wife came home from work last thursday and found him on the floor. the emergency technicians attempted to revive him, but she thinks he was probably already gone.

when she telephoned me, the emt's were still at work on him and she was hysterical -- who wouldn't be? but when i met her at the emergency room she had calmed down and was waiting to hear the inevitable. this er was the same place where i had my trouble last year. it was my first return, so it was very difficult for me to be there and to remember.

when the staff finally called her back to the "consultation" area, she asked me to go with her. the news was what we expected. we then went to the room where his body lay. she touched him and cried and so did i. he was my friend. after a few minutes she said something like, "no more suffering," and this thought seemed to encourage her.

later i began to think how this little incident in this little place is actually the way of all people. none of us will make it out of here alive, and some seem to even suffer acutely while they are here. this has caused me to always think of this life-soup that surrounds us as chaos. if you doubt this just take a walk through a children's cancer ward. if you’re like me the words, “God’s will,” sticks in your throat in those hallways.

anyway, if the human condition is chaos then the ways of the christ are not meant to sustain us in safety, but instead are meant to enable us to stand in the very midst of the hellish suffering we see everyday, both in the ones we love and in ourselves. another way to say this is to say that the kingdom of God is the fierce fight we wage against these forces of chaos. no single person prevails, but the king will see to it that all of us prevail, someday. this is the blessed hope, and without that hope there really isn't much to what we say we believe.