It actually started yesterday. Tony asked if I had heard about a fatality accident that happened early Sunday morning. I had not. Evidently it was not far from our house. After our morning gathering at Snow Hill I received a text from a friend. One of our mutual friends’ son was clinging to life at Children’s Hospital. Later in the evening the prognosis was worse. Heading to the office this morning I faced a delay as an apparent accident stalled traffic on my street. (For those of you not familiar with where I live, that is very abnormal.) Later I learned a couple of teenagers had been in a collision with a tractor-trailer rig and were ejected from their vehicle. The aftermath of the event left their truck in a bad way. A few hours after that scene I was told the two survived with what at the time appears to be “minor” injuries. My mother sent a text that a long time family friend had left this life. I received a visit from one of our men who told me about the family of the fatal accident early Sunday morning. The loss marked the family’s second child who had died. A text a couple of hours later confirmed my friends’ fears. No brain activity. Good-byes would be said and devices removed. A 3 year-old son would leave a void for his family. Just a short time ago a call came that one of the men we met through our Wednesday evening times of serving our community lost his battle to cancer. The diagnosis was recent. The re-evaluation revealed stage 4. All in just a couple of weeks. Barbara will miss him.
There are days where I think about my skeptic friends who only find meaning in the material present. A person dies and that is all. I hold on to something more because of the resurrection of Jesus. Though I cannot give a sense of meaning to these disconnected events, I am sure families will struggle endlessly with. “What does it mean?” There are things I would say with confidence it does not mean. But, that leaves me less confident to offer what it does mean.
Today we received a gift offering continued support for our Wednesdays Are for Others at Snow Hill. One of our young men volunteered to help pick up food for our Feed America runs. My Dad came down to help with some work in an office remodel. My wife called having a “Monday” looking for some humor from me. That was funny in itself. A group of men who make runs to pick up food from the Feed America program self-identified as, “BoysRUs.” They are all retired. We received a couple of calls from people in need of food this week. We will be able to help. The clinic is open this week. I just added a patient.
I am left with understanding and underscoring that the very least we can do is live out the life and love of Jesus for those experiencing the tragedies of life, those facing the normal needs of life, those wiling to serve others in the course of life, and offering a bit of humor for those tired from the work of life.
3 comments on “Life and Meaning . . . Living the Jesus Way”
Hi Todd – A very difficult period you describe, encountering suffering and loss all around. Something I would find personally challenging to deal with.
One question arises from your reflections about your skeptic friends. Is it that they are somehow less-equipped to lend support to the afflicted because their world-view holds no place for an afterlife and a hope for future restoration of the dead and the living? What of those who hold competing views on this subject? Do not Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus also hold non-materialist perspectives which offer alternatives to the Christian version?
When I reflect on death and loss I find myself frequently drawn to Lenin’s paradoxical observation that the death of a single person is a tragedy, while the deaths of millions is a statistic. In the context of your personal observation about the painful impact of individual loss, I despair at the act of mental / spiritual compartmentalization that allows so many followers of Jesus to mourn the loss of those closest to them while remaining detached and indifferent to the deaths of thousands just like those they mourn.
Certainly, we can make the same observation about most human beings and their religious traditions, not just Christians. So perhaps it is simply in the nature of being human that we feel with greater intensity the loss of something close to us, and can remain comparatively unmoved by the loss of something further away or, indeed, perceived as significantly “other” than ourselves.
As one of your skeptic friends, who finds no meaning in the material present or immaterial future, I find that all I can offer is to take on a share of the pain and grief suffered by anyone who loses someone they love. That’s pretty much the only thing I’m certain of.
Thanks for your always thoughtful and provocative reflections on things important to all our lives.
Always glad when you stop by. You have a way of reminding me of the need for a bit more clarity. Especially since I have no interest in somehow setting off my skeptic friends as unable to add value to life, including the lives of those who suffer. I do find value in our friendship, even if we have not seen one another for more years than we care to admit. And, others whom I had in mind are to and for me some of the only friends I am able to share with rare frankness and honesty without being pitched in one category or another.
We share a common vision that somehow Christians believe the incidents I describe here rise in importance above those you had in mind. Currently we may consider Tunisia or even more closely those who will be trafficked in Dallas during the upcoming Super Bowl festivities. Sordid to think I know. But a recent article I read noted that when you get a large group of men away from home they have a difficult time with certain appetites. Sad to be sure.
Maybe I should have included that I don’t believe in an immaterial future either. Odd as it may sound, I believe in a material future. I just cannot get past the material Jesus’ resurrection and somehow believe any future would hold an apparition like existence in the way out beyond. I am sure the label heretic will soon follow. I am with Wright and Willard and others who seem to make space for a world set right – a material world, and no I am not a “material boy.” Yes, that was a bad digression. I realize some have no interest in what that may hold, but when I consider the injustices, I really do hope for the day when what appears to be the cut short dream of God will be realized in a world sans evil. So I continue to hope.
When you remark about “all that you can offer,” I find a sense of meaning in that move toward the “other.” Maybe it is not transcendent, but I think it may well be. In fact, when facing these kinds of issues I am left wondering how to mesh the metaphysical and the phenomenological. Much of what I read seems to say you must choose one or the other. But, that is someone else’s rule.
Should I ever have a loss, I will always be encouraged when I open and email, or who knows the door, and find you on the other end, or side, ready to share in that suffering. There will indeed be meaning there. It may be my own, but meaning it will be.
Todd – Always trust that I take everything you write in its intended breadth and depth of spirit. Quite right of you to call attention to the materiality of the Christian hope. No one is a greater opponent of Docetic deviations from the Gospel message than I, regarding the corporeality of Christian faith in future expectations. Indeed, I find the whole material / spiritual dichotomy hopelessly inadequate when applied to the known scientific and existential realities of our worldly experience.
Ironically, you also catch me out in my own contradiction – the Kierkegaardian “leap of faith” by which I try to remain open and affected by the suffering and need of others, no matter who or where they are – friends and family or those others to whom you referred above. I can’t justify that stance, being anti-foundationalist and all, except to say that it “feels” right to me and is no doubt the legacy of past experience with those, like yourself and other of our OBU professors and classmates, who modeled it in ways that are indelibly stamped on my personality.
In short, you’re partly to blame. 🙂