Beauty in Tragedy
Hope can be wonderful.
Hope can be confusing.
Hope can be non-existent.
If we’re honest with ourselves, hope is one of the more manic feelings we experience in our lives. Hope can set us free and then shackle us in the same 15 minute span. I think of sports fans having an irresistible hope for their team to win and having that hope squashed in a matter of seconds.
But what about hope in the midst of hardship? I’m not talking about the “hardship” of your team not making the playoffs, or your fantasy team ruining your life but the hardships of loss. Of brokenness. Of death. Of tragedy.
I remember in my Ordination exam for the Christian Reformed Church, a question was posed about what we would do as a Pastor if we had a family in the congregation who lost the father to a car crash suddenly, in the middle of the night.
I sat there thinking while one of my colleagues gave a wonderful, Scripture-filled response, articulated beautifully, but still seemed to be lacking something.
Then an answer came to me: Dunkin Donuts.
“In that situation, I would live in my Dunkin Donuts theology.” I said. My response was met with blank stares.
“And that is?”
“Well, I would drive to wherever the family was and on the way I would stop at Dunkin Donuts, pick up some coffee donuts and extra napkins. I would show up, drink coffee with them, cry with them, listen to their stories, their anger, and their questions. I wouldn’t offer much by way of words but instead be present in their tragedy.”
I believe if Jesus is going to be present in tragedy, we need to be as well. Presence in tragedy does not mean having the answers, opening the Bible, or even prayer. Being present in tragedy is about sitting in a place, a hard and unknown place, while grasping to the smallest piece of hope we can.
As a Pastor, it is not my job to make tragedy better, but to point people to the One who can be their hope. That is the person of Jesus Christ. Then, when the individual is ready, hope is always there ready to wrap them up and give them perspective, life, energy, and movement. It is in that place, I don’t hold to my words, but to the words of “ Lord’s Day 1”, of the Heidelberg Catechism:
What is your only comfort
in life and death?
That I am not my own, 1
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 2
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. 3
He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, 4
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil. 5
He also preserves me in such a way 6
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head; 7
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation. 8
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life 9
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him
Every New Day – Five Iron Frenzy
It is Well (With my soul)
When tragedy comes in life, appetite is usually one of the first things to go, so I would keep a meal light and easy. It might sounds strange but the food needs to be something that can be reheated (once, twice, maybe more) as sitting down for a complete meal is unlikely. Along with being reheated, the meal should also be able to handle being “picked at” when the appetite is not there, something that can be moved around, poked, and moved back by a fork. Noodles are good for this! Whether you do cheese, butter and pepper, or a light marinara; noodles can be an editable stress ball for your soul!
Lord, though I might not think you are here because of what I’m going through, I trust you. I trust your plan over my plan. I trust your pain over my pain. You died for this moment and I will do my best to abide in you. I may get mad at you, I may even curse you. But you see me. You know me. You knew this moment would be. Thank you for the hope I know I have in you. Maybe not today, not tomorrow or next week, but I know you’re there.