|Product dimensions:||5.63(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.63(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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OUR PARCHED SOULS
The church was packed for Linda's funeral. On the front pew sat her parents, husband, and two children. I sat in the minister's bench directly in front of them and gazed into their faces as the Twenty-third Psalm was read.
This family was lost in heartbreaking grief. They were wondering the same thing everyone in grief wonders: How can the world go on so easily, as though nothing has happened? Linda was once a vibrant, loving, young mother, but now breast cancer had taken her away from us.
I tried to concentrate on the psalm, but a relentless sorrow kept piercing through. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.... Except for Linda. I wanted Linda back.
When it came time for the eulogies, two of Linda's friends spoke first. They wept a bit as they described how much they loved Linda and how desperately they already missed her. The congregation and I expected these words and held up pretty well as we heard them. But the third eulogy was given by Linda's nine-year-old son. We weren't ready for what he had to say. It wouldn't have mattered if we had been. There was no defense against this moment.
I can still see him standing behind the podium, stretching up toward the microphone. Like a brave little soldier, he read dutifully from the paper in his hands: 'Thank you for being here today to say good-bye to my mother, who has gone to heaven. I want you to know a couple of the things that my sister and I will miss about Mommy. We'll miss the way she always greeted us when we got home from school. She would be in the kitchen and we would run into her arms, and it felt good to be home. I'm going to miss that. At nighttime, when we had to go to bed, she would race us to our beds, then we'd jump in them and have tickling contests. And she would read us a story. I'm going to miss that too.' Then he folded up his piece of paper, stuffed it into his pocket, and sat down.
As if that weren't enough to completely undo us, the tenor soloist began to sing softly, Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly. The music gently found its way into the protected corners of every heart there. How could such tenderness wage war on all our defenses and illusions of immortality? By the time the song was done, we had surrendered to the sorrow.
Now it was my turn to speak.
But I couldn't. So I sat there in the silence, dabbing my eyes. Eventually, of course, I had to say something. I'm the pastor; it's my job to speak into the silence.
I've seen this silence before. It's created not only by little boys with broken hearts but also by lab reports announcing the presence of cancer, bosses trying to explain a downsizing, and notes on a dresser that say 'I'm leaving.' The silence is produced by gravestones, nursing homes late at night, children with dangerously high fevers, and coming across the Christmas stocking of a spouse who recently died. It can even be found on the heels of successes and achievements that are never quite what we thought they would be, leaving us empty and disappointed.
We hate this silence. It isn't the type that comes as a welcome relief from our chaotic lives. It's the silence that rips away the words we grope for in trying to explain life and to find hope.
Most of the time we're able to cover this silence with our cherished distractions. But occasionally something breaks through and hushes us with ultimate, difficult questions. These are the questions that push us to stare at the limits of our existence and ask, 'Why are we here? What is really important? Is there anything to which we can cling in life?' In these quiet moments there's no escaping these questions. They stare us straight in the eye, daring us to say something---to say anything--that isn't foolish.
One day, a colleague at work tells you that his teenage son has just committed suicide. Stunned, you pause for a moment and finally stutter out, 'I---I don't know what to say.' Exactly. You've learned by now not to point out that he has two other wonderful children or that you're sure his son is in a much happier place or that your neighbor's kid committed suicide a while back. It would all sound completely asinine. Yet I am certain there are no human words that are any better.
Still, we cannot leave it at this, because our souls long to find some way of making sense of life. I sometimes think humanity's most heroic trait is that we refuse to let silence have the last word. We know that if nothing can be said, then our worst fears are true and there is no point or hope to life.
Even though we might not have intended to, we have now embarked on a great journey in search of a word that can fill the silence and make sense of life again. Some of us bring the search to church, wondering if maybe God has such a word.
Whenever I stand behind the pulpit to say, 'Hear the word of the Lord,' I can never say more than God says at this place on the journey. Many in the congregation hope that God's word will quickly get them out of this hard place where the silence is deafening. But when we are on a journey through a hard place with God, there are no shortcuts.
Silence is never more than an invitation to discover the limitation of all human words, even all religious words. It is not an answer or an explanation, it is not even a theology, but a person we are searching for. A sacred person. God himself, whom the Bible reveals as one God in three persons---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Table of ContentsPart One: The Thirsty Christian
1. Our Parched Souls 11
2. Right Answers Aren’t Enough 25
3. A Stranger in Community 37
4. When Prayer Dries Up 50
5. Compassion Fatigue 64
Part Two: The Living Water
6. It’s Not About You 81
7. The Searching God 94
8. Communing with God 109
9. The Longing to Confess 123
10. The Courage to Believe 137
Part Three: Satisfying the Thirst
11. Finding a Holy People 153
12. Finding a Holy Place 167
13. Finding a Holy Purpose 180
14. Finding a Holy Joy 195
15.Finding a Holy Self 208