So it is just a day shy of three months. Three months ago, I was sitting in a hospital room with my mom and siblings, basically waiting for my dad to die. Stubborn as he is, he held on for longer than the doctors said he would, and we stayed at the hospital with him and each other for longer than we told our spouses we would. It was roughly 36 straight hours of us sitting by his side, eating microwaved 7-eleven hotdogs, and taking shifts lying down on the single pull out chair that was included in my dad’s room. It was 36 hours after we were told “any minute now, really” until he actually passed. It was a long 36 hours of saying goodbye and solidifying that hole in our hearts.
And after three months, it hasn’t healed.
I’m not saying I am up every night crying. Nor am I saying that I am unable to function with the loss of my dad. I’m not even saying that I can’t think about anything else but him. I’m just saying that I still miss him. My heart still hurts knowing that I won’t see him again. My eyes often do well up (but no actual tears shed, mind you) when I think about the very few good times I’ve had with this guy who played a large role in who I am today.
But I am good. I am well. I laugh with my kids. I still make lame dad jokes. I look at my wife both with love in that she has been so supportive, a bit of envy because she still has two living parents, and a bit of sympathy because she still has to deal with the stress of having two living parents (that might classify as a dad joke).
The point is, although I am sad that my dad died, and I miss him more than I thought I could ever miss someone whom I didn’t really get along with, I know that I am not alone in this. I know I am supported and surrounded by a community graciously given to me by God, and in which I am graciously welcomed into. I know that in this community there is healing, there is joy and laughter, and there is peace. And this is a community that I wish to embrace and hold on to and do everything I can to make sure it remains welcoming, supportive, and loving not just to me, but to all who wish to be a part of it. It is a great community.
Psalm 23 seems really appropriate for all that I am feeling. It might have been a lot more appropriate like three months ago, but hey better now than never (or better like 2-3 times a year than not in the lectionary at all). This Psalm reminds us of God’s unending presence, blessing, and leading into peace. But things don’t always seem peaceful, do they? They don’t always seem calm, or joyful, or even smile-worthy.
Things like the passing of my dad. Things like the shooting in Vegas last weekend. Things like the horrors that happen everyday in people’s lives and homes.
But these are the times that we need our faith the most. It’s in times like these that we need that rock to stand firm on. In times of pain, sickness, and stress, we need more than ever to be reminded that we are all invited to the banquet, brought to the plentiful feast, welcomed to celebrate the gifts and love of God. This invitation is never ending and includes us all, but we might forget or not fully embrace it. This doesn’t exclude us, but it does change how we see it.
I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be able to cast our cares aside, enter into the joy of thanksgiving, and rejoice in the Lord always? Oh wait, we can do those things. It was promised to us years ago by God, and is still true today. This isn’t to say that everyday will be free of worry and hurt, but it is to say that we can be confident in the promise of God’s gracious love and merciful welcome. We can rest in the arms of community, lean on the everlasting support of the Spirit, and be empowered by strength of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
In light of all this, I choose to jump in with both feet, soak up the joyous atmosphere of God’s grace, and embrace the gracious welcome into God’s fold. This is healing, restoring us to wholeness, and leading us into peace. Rejoice always! And again I say, rejoice!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!