The briefest of blogs today. Earlier today I opened up a message on my phone to read of a wonderful answer to prayer for someone that Morag and I and many others have been praying for, an answer which was described as “nothing short of a miracle.” It concerned a little one whose life was at risk.
It made me think back to little ones over the years that have been prayed for with equal love, intensity and faith, for whom there was no miracle… and I had no answer. Even after Toronto, Bethel etc., I still can’t explain why miracles come and why they don’t… I have not heard any bible teacher or even those used regularly in healing whose teaching satisfies me on this one – so although you would mean it well, please don’t send me a link to someone teaching on this!! The saving grace is that at the point of extreme need, or even extreme disappointment and anger against God that one can encounter in pastoral situations, sensitive presence, kindness and compasion and an offer to pray are never out of place and more often than you might realise are appreciated more than asnwers. Suffering is not ground for excited, assured, cold or for that matter warm theological suggestion or speculation.
Friends, we all have to live with these mysteries and at times it is very hard to do just that. I am no longer a parish minister, but I particularly want to ask you to remember that your minister of pastor finds it just as hard to hold these mysteries. I found myself thinking today how over the years I have stood at a lot of gravesides, too many in fact: babies, young children or adults killed in road accidents, those who perished in house or car fires, children murdered by their father; I thought too of precious human beings who died by suicide, some I knew old and young who had drowned, those who were the victims of violence or who lived for decades with the trauma of abuse, those who suffered from wasting diseases, those suffering the hell of addiction and mental illness or watching those they love “live” and die with such things. I am sure I could add to the list, but do you get the point? I could be very graphic about things I have seen or ministered into over the years. I have seen some things that I wish I had never had to see and will never forget. I could also go on and tell you about times I have been physically threatened and attacked by people and bitten by dogs during pastoral visits!! I experienced many of these situations within the first 10 years of ministry while I was still young. I knew no more than anyone else what to say. I had no pre-prepared answer, in fact I hate pre-prepared answers. I simply had a sense of call, the same bible as you do, the same God to pray to and the promise of His presence and His grace as I went into situations in His Name: a presence that I occasionally felt, but more often than not had to believe was with me by faith.
I think I want to ask you to remember what I have shared whenever you choose to speak to your pastor or minister or perhaps a chaplain in a health care situation. Think of what they may have had to carry that day or that week, the traumatic things that have multiplied in their experience and memories over the years. This very week they may have stood beside a tiny white coffin, or may have listend to a story of intense suffering that has been shared with no one but them. Remember too that they may be in a personal or family or financial struggle, as well as carrying the pastoral situations they have been called into. Remember all of this when you are tempted to gossip or complain or criticise. Perhaps instead of doing that you should pay for your pastor to have a holiday. We have been blessed in that way several times over the years. Perhaps you should encourage them to take a sabbatical – something I was encouraged to do but never did! I heard someone else say in jest the other day that other folk don’t get sabbaticals in their jobs…. true… but if you are tempted to sort of angrily agree with such a thought… well, I am glad you were never in my congregation…you just don’t understand.
I guess I am wondering why I am writing this today? Perhpas someone reading this was just about to give their pastor a mouthful of complaint or opinion, or to share details of a petty quarrel with someone in the church that as an adult you should just get over and seek to make your own move towards reconciliation? Perhaps God wants you to pray right this very day for your pastor or minister. I really don’t know why I felt so strongly I had to write this today, but if you feel in any way that the cap fits…