Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Circle of Life

OK so there's no way I'm gonna do some kinda Lion King schmaltz...except I did have a surreal and yet very real experience this week.

We have a friend of the family who has cancer in the jaw and throat area. He was friend of my Dad (who died 14 years ago). They had a mutual friend, John, who died from cancer a couple of years before Dad. This guy's daughter and my late wife Claire had cancer at the same time in their teens. His daughter survived. Claire lived another 12 years. He and his wife remain friends of Claire's parents and my mother. So there's history all over the place with this guy.

I remember him coming over to watch rugby with my Dad when I was young. He had a very abrupt way of leaving before the game was even finished if his team was doing badly. It was kind of funny and uncomfortable at the same time. But it was never personal. I recall him being profoundly affected by John's death - John was a strong Christian who died with his faith intact. A lot like Claire, he demonstrated a courage and serenity that points to more than internal resources.

So Monday night my mother calls me to tell me he's heading to hospital the next day for a major op including reconstructive surgery. I ask whether they have any support from the church. No. Its an annoying fact that the local Anglican church has never cared well for its nominal adherents, my Mother (and by extension my Father) included. I indicate I'd be happy to go over, feeling anything but confident! She says she will make the offer.

The phone rings. And its the wife, asking me to come over. A calm descends and I prepare to go. On the way I can't stop replaying memories of when I was 9 years old. Of this guy coming over for a beer with my Dad. And now I'm visiting him. As a pastor. And the circumstances are very much more serious. You see, I still don't really feel like a pastor (whatever that means). I am certain of my call but I am still the same old frail individual who feels pretty much like the 19 year old who woke up one morning and discovered his previously atheistic conviction had been supplanted by a deep faith in Christ. Mostly, I like this sense of groundedness. But in moments like this one, it feels plain weird.

So I drive over, with thoughts of pointing to the twin poles of Psalm 22 and 23. Of the reality that we mostly live somewhere between these poles of hope and despair. And, that God can take it wherever we are.

Its a sweet time. I pray. It seems to make a difference. I know it did for me.


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