A new theological word.
This morning I have visited my sister and her husband. It was a very emotional visit. My brother-in-law Alex has got terminal cancer and in recent weeks they have had trouble controlling his pain levels. As we said “goodbye” after our visit today and shared hugs all around, our eyes watered up. Dunedin is about 5 hours’ drive away from Christchurch, it is a long way to go to visit again. He is my sister’s third husband. With husband number one (whose company I enjoyed) she had three children, all adults now. She married husband number two and while I got on OK with him, I did think she deserved better. Without going into details, husband number one and two, in different ways did the dirty on my sister. About three years ago I took a happy wedding when she married Alex, husband number three. Alex seems to be a really good bloke who loves and respects my sister. He has a generous heart and a nice manner about him. I have been wrapt because my sister found someone decent, loving, who was good for her and she was good for him. I thought she had found someone really good and that they would grow old together. But over a year ago they told him he had about two months to live because of his cancer. Now I hope you will excuse a minister some highly theological words that express deep truths about these events. …. Bugger! ..... Sometimes life stinks! “Shit” really does “happen.”
I don’t believe God caused it or that God is “calling him home.” I do not think the cancer is there for any mysterious purpose that “God alone can see.” I just think it is one of the tragedies of life. There simply are no guarantees in life.
Courage and love are beautiful
When I was at intermediate school I did woodwork. We made a wooden stool. (The legs I made never quite fit tightly into the holes in the top so mine kept falling apart) Our woodwork teacher had us polishing the top. It was a great revelation to me. It looked like just a normal boring piece of wood, but as I sanded it and scraped it a beautiful wood grain emerged. The wood grain was always there, but it was shown off and seen in the hard work of polishing. That is what is happening with my sister and my brother-in-law. As he faces the prospect of not being around and as he endures the pain and steady decline in what he can do, his courage and character is emerging and being seen as something beautiful. As they travel through this experience together the real love relationship that my sister and Alex have is being seen. They are supporting each other. They remain ever more deeply linked. She is helping him bear the pain. The love they have shines in the darkness. Now let me be clear. This is what is happening in the midst of tragedy because of the character of these two people and the nature of their friendship. I have heard some people say things like, “See there is a purpose in it after all – God is working his purpose out.” I do not believe God causes such things to teach us about courage and love! Shit happens, but in the shit, courage and love can still shine forth and life and love out-shine tragedy. It is true the power of God’s ways is being seen, but that is not why it is happening. That is because two brave people are doing their best.
I still say “bugger! Life is not fair!” but because of the character of this couple, and their openness to the sacred ways and values, I can also say, “Isn’t life, love and courage beautiful?” It was a privilege to spend time with them today.
The Desiderata says, “Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.”
|Photo of me signing the register for Alex and Katherine's wedding in February 2009. Alex is the big guy in grey shirt looking on.|