More than sorrow

Philippians 2:1–13

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Oglesbee's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

As pastors, we spend a great deal of time sharing in the ongoing lives and adventures of our congregants and community members. We are also called, literally, to come to love and suffer with them when disappointments, disasters or deaths occur.

One sister came to our inner-city church when she was in her mid-50s. She became a close friend and steady hand in the congregation. However, within two years of our mutual discovery, she abruptly learned that she had a terminal cancer. There was nothing to be done. It's not hard to remember how her grief at first overwhelmed her. She complained to me bitterly. Having come to this new community and a new life, now could this all be taken from her? "It's not fair," she said. "It is too soon."

However, the bread of sorrow was not all she received. Her spiritual friendships and the care of many people enabled her to open herself to her one last perfect storm, her only death. One day, in the midst of the struggles, she insisted that I listen to a recording I'd never heard before, by Enya. The song represented her own path and growing confidence, and it became an anthem for me, too. The song was "How Can I Keep from Singing":

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the clear though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation. . . .
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

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The most moving version of

The most moving version of that hymn that I ever heard was Martin Sheen on Prairie Home Companion a few years ago after he spoke about his involvement in Burma. Sheen has a pleasant enough voice, but it was the passion in his voice that moved me. I think you can still find it on the PHC website.

more than sorrow

In pastoral care we need to be aware of more than sorrow, there can be acute anxiety,

After that initial period of emergency response, there is a lag time: there will be a thirty day period before we can know whether the post traumatic eruption has occurred with its flashbacks, rage, withdrawal, etc.There can also be a fooler to the care giver: denial can set in for a time.

The big change in pastoral care is follow-up on trauma; we need to set up regular checks to see what is happening in the long term. The family's distress, for instance, may be tip off.

The Apostle Paul and his wounding and process into a wholeness to still celebrate is a great role model.

Bob Collie
http://theapostlepaulandposttraumaticstress.blogspot.com/

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