I've lost the hearts and hands of a lot of dear friends in this journey of faith and life. In the last decade I've had to drink some bitter sips from the sufferings of Christ. It's a cup that swirls with a mix of our own sins and the sins of others. As Christians we commune together around broken bread and spilled out blood, symbols of human failure, pain, betrayal and death.
The biblical psalmist David mulled over his own relational drama and trauma when he penned away in Psalms 55:
Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away
to the quiet of the wilderness. Selah
How quickly I would escape—
far from this wild storm of hatred.
David, revealed the deep source of his pain, his failed relationships:
It is not an enemy who taunts me—
I could bear that.
is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
I could have hidden from them.
Instead, it is you—my equal,
my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed
as we walked together to the house of God.
In Christian communities we gather around the truth telling sacraments of bread and wine and we are united in the retelling not only of a cross but of a mysterious resurrection. A witness to divine life and its power to come back from the dead and bring us back from the dead, no matter how death came, through others our our own hand. Because all of us who have traveled very far on this sacred road know that we are all guilty of living and loving less than we should and all of us need mercy.
The reality of just how hard it is to love one another is honestly faced in the biblical scriptures. Our need for a grace and mercy that comes from outside us and comes to us in an act of redemption is at the core of the Christ story. "We love because He first loved us" is part of the good news as one follower of Jesus named John wrote. This love should soften, open, reshape, quiet and liberate us to be a welcoming people.
But unfortunately we too often retreat to theologies, philosophies and ideologies that divide us, pit us against one another and concentrate on what is different instead of celebrating what we all share.
An old American clergyman once put it in words far better than mine:
T. De Witt Talmage said:
"I sometimes see in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ a strange thing going on; church against church, minister against minister, denomination against denomination, firing away into friend's fort, or the fort which ought to be on the same side, instead of concentrating their energy, and giving one mighty and everlasting volley against the navies of darkness riding up through the bay. I go out in the summer, and I find two beehives, and these two hives are in a quarrel. I come near enough not to be stung, but I come just near enough to hear the controversy, and one beehive says: "That field of clover is the sweetest,'' and another beehive says: "That field of clover is the sweetest." I come in between them and I say: "Stop this quarrel; if you like that field of clover best, go there; if you like that other field of clover best, go there, but let me tell you that that hive which gets the most honey is the best hive." So I come out between the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. One denomination of Christians says: "That field of Christian doctrine is best," and another says: "This field of Christian doctrine is best." Well, I say: "Go where you get the most honey." That is the best church which gets the most honey, of Christian grace for the heart, and the most honey of Christian usefulness for the life."
David closed his reflections with an encouraging promise that God welcomes our burdens and our brokenness and like a loving parent, friend and spouse — He will care for us. He will help us rise again, love again, trust again and maybe even believe again.
"Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."
It's in the light of this grace and mercy that I find the strength and spirit to keep going day by day, month through month and year to year hopefully wounding less, healing more and loving deeper.