This morning I was reading a book on Ecclesiastes entitled A Table in the Mist, by Jeffrey Meyers. I came across this paragraph:
"Modern Christmas seasons provide us with little more than sentimental, syrupy niceness and nice thoughts about a mistily-glowing baby Jesus. All we are left with is the commoditization of vague religious sentimentalism. There is no spiritual power in this. What’s worse, because of this the Christian faith seems, to many in our culture, little more than an attempt to stir up comforting religious feelings to mask one’s real troubles in the world. But this is so far removed from the Bible and genuine Christianity that it has to be considered another religion, one that plays make-believe with the dirty realities of this life." (p. vii)
I like the way Meyers expresses this. I do think that at times we want to somehow mask our real troubles in the world and sometimes do that through stirring up just the right mix of religious feelings. Unfortunately, far too often religious people have played "…make-believe with the dirty realities of this life."
Earlier, I was thinking about some of the conversations and interactions I have had with people this week. These remind me of some of the "dirty realities of this life."
- I did two funerals this week. Two different families. Two different life situations. Talking with families after a death, I am often reminded of the complexity of life.
- I spoke with several people this week about family issues. Good people trying to be a family to spouses, parents, in-laws, and their children.
- The wife of a good friend of mine is in ICU after a stroke this week. She is 48 years old. He waits and waits in the ICU waiting room.
- A young man and his wife are at M. D. Anderson where he battles cancer. He is in his early twenties. They have a new baby.
These are just a few of the "dirty realities of this life." I do not believe that faith means that we are dismissive about these realities or that we quickly trot out a one-liner that in some way is supposed to fix or take care of these situations. If anything, these kinds of behaviors on the part of Christian people, and in particular Christian leaders, have a way of shutting down any future honest conversation.
Far better to love people through all these difficulties, confusing moments, and even suffering. There is a time for conversation. Often, people in our lives just want to talk through these situations with someone they trust. Yes, sometimes, people want help as they grapple with what to say and do. There is also a time, however, to be silent and to simply be present with people.
I pray for the wisdom to know whether speaking or silence is the best kind of presence at any given moment.