So it is Martin Luther King Day and with all my heart I want to honor what this day means for our country, for our collective memory, for our future of unmet dreams. I truly do. But I confess my heart is still stuck in the muck of last week’s events in the life of my church staff family. And so I’m going to try and wrap it all together if possible.
This has been one of those weeks that you never want to live through again but will never forget. When the phone rings and life will never be the same again. Jonathan Brake, one of the Associate Ministers on staff at Centenary, lost his youngest son, Sam, age 11. It was an unexpected death and it sent his family and those that love them reeling.
Four nights later I received word that our youth director, Tammy Pollock’s house caught on fire and received extensive damage. Thankfully no one was hurt but between the fire and soot damage and the water damage from the fire hoses, another traumatic kind of loss.
It has been a week filled with prayer and supplication for the deep hurt and loss of friends. My chest has literally been heavy with sadness for these friends. And I find myself at the crossroads between faith and life. That place where you wonder if life can get any harder and if God is paying any attention at all. And it is at these crossroads that every time I am reminded that God is even more present and doing God’s best work during these excruciatingly difficult times.
We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
I know in my head this to be true but sometimes it is hard to feel it in my heart. And then I stumbled upon these words from Henri Nouwen in my daily devotional. I think it ties up both MLK Day and the profound sense of loss this week has brought. It is about the difference between hope and optimism.
“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things- the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on- will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.
All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary , Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, [King] and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.” – Henri Nouwen – Bread for the Journey
Let’s be people of hope!