In the apostolic instruction “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep,” it seems pretty clear that we are expected to share life. That sharing is not dictated by our own circumstances alone but by those of others as well. Beyond self, there is the larger, the community.
Whether in triumph or in tragedy, we bring forth from within and from each other, the realities of life in a world that is fallen and fallible, yet also joyous and giving. This life is multi-dimensional and the greater the sharing of the incidents that fall all along that continuum, the stronger and deeper our relationships.
Sometimes the sharings from both ends collide in the same day, almost the same moment.
I had learned over the weekend that one friend’s mother had been killed in a car and pedestrian accident. Out for her evening walk and struck by a car. In this stage of the investigation, very few details are available to the family. They don’t know the exact nature of the incident but they do know that Mimi is in the care of the Lord. In spite of all the pain, grief and shock, they take comfort in that.
Another friend has found comfort in a very different manner.
As pastor of a local church, he gladly carries the burden of caring for his congregation. As is common in many churches, corporate attendance and giving drop off during the summer. He had recently shared with a friend who is not a member of his church that he was going to have to ask the bank if the church could skip this month’s payment. The friend made an unexpected offer as hopeful incentive, “Tell your church what the situation is, that there isn’t enough money to cover the mortgage. Also tell them that you have a private donor who will match their special offering the following Sunday—up to a certain amount.” Day before yesterday was the Sunday designated for the special offering; the pastor and I had planned a lunch together on Monday.
Although I was anxious to hear how that had gone I was also anxious to see the other friend. While cards and calls can certainly convey our caring, hugs and handshakes seem even more tangible to me. I dropped by the first friend’s workplace. We shook hands and hugged and talked a little while. Another hug and I was on my way to meet the fellow pastor for lunch.
I managed to wait for at least a minute-and-a-half before I asked him, “How’d it go Sunday?”
With his face beaming and a smile he could barely talk through, he told me. He laid out the backstory of how he had announced the need to the church a week in advance so they’d have time to think and pray and respond. He then told me about being in his office after church while the deacons counted the money. “Every now and then I’d hear one of them say, ‘Praise the Lord!’ so I knew it was going to be good.”
Naturally I had to ask “How good was it?” With the non-member’s match and the members’ giving, they’d collected enough to cover the next three month’s payments!
It wasn’t just the money that gave James reason to celebrate, although it certainly gave very visible expression to the Lord’s providence. Rather it was the way the Spirit had moved to bring him and his friend together for what seemed would be just a casual lunch which then set in motion a series of small events that lead to blessing for him and his congregation.
In the same way, I know that the Spirit will bring everything that is needed for healing and comfort to John and his family in the coming days, weeks, months and years. At just the right moment, someone will call, show up or send a card. Along with those moments when missing Mimi will seem almost unbearable, the Spirit will bring a sharing and caring that will help them through.
And in our sharing of both pain and celebration, we will all draw closer to one another and find ourselves also closer to the One who both gives and takes away. Blessed be his name.