Being with people

May 3, 2016

Often things we do in life that we call our “professions” have two extremes; those tasks that we like and those tasks that we can do without. Occasionally those two things are the same. For example in ministry, the thing I like the most is being with people. And the thing I like the least? Yeah you got it… being with people. I hope I don’t need to explain that.

What I want to focus on are some of the positive inspirational moments of “being with people.” In particular, I would like to mention a few occasions when I have been deeply touched and inspired. I mention these because it is my hope that these examples might inspire you to recall a few of your own memories. And in that light… you might be lifted up this day.

If I could talk to seminary students preparing to go into the pastorate I would want to tell them many things, but maybe nothing more than this. When you have the privilege to minister to folks with terminal illnesses… THEY WILL INSPIRE YOU and they will teach you about dying. For those who are not in a field where you are caring for terminal folks, you might not know that there is great anxiety for most of us as we face that task. I mean what are we supposed to say to folks who are dying? Or what do we say to the family of terminal patients? Particularly if that patient is a young person?! Seriously… what do we say?

I don’t know if this is correct but my answer to the previous question is, very little. Oh, for sure we need to answer direct questions, but mostly folks want a listening ear or a quiet presence. And the things they will say will stay with you forever. Simple things like, “I am ready.” Or, “I am prepared to meet my Lord.” Or, “I can’t wait to see my loved ones.” I had an 87 year old man say to me, “I want to see my mom and dad again.” Even now it causes me to tear up.

Truthfully in 32 years of “professional pastoral ministry” I have only had one person who was angry about dying. Surprisingly she was a 90 year old woman who was irate and wanted to know, “What did I do to deserve this?!?!” I tried the old “remain silent and allow her to vent” routine but she insisted on an answer. “What did I do to God to cause Him to do this to me?!” she said several times. What would you say if you were in that situation? Honestly? Probably very little that would help or bring comfort.
Obviously, the above examples relate to folks who lived long lives. Do I need to even say anything about the dreadful, broken heartedness of parents who lose children? There are no words. There is not enough “silent time” with them. There are not a sufficient number of loving relatives and friends to alleviate the sleepless, comfortless, seemingly unending pain these folks go through. And yet even for them, a time usually comes when they are able to live again and be thankful for the opportunity to have known their child for moments or for having carried their child for months. And they often look forward to a time in glory when they might see them again.
I don’t know how people with no hope live!

Well, enough of that. How about a really happy story?

I don’t know how many weddings I have done over the years… surely over 100 and maybe 150-200. One year I had 10 another year I had 0. I have known pastors who regularly do over 30 weddings a year… I have no idea how. Most folks don’t factor in that there are hours of pre marital counseling with each wedding along with a rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding day and reception. It is a lot of time. Not complaining… just saying.
I want to reference one wedding in particular. It must have been 10 years ago… maybe longer. Picture for a moment the scene where the bride and her father are about to walk down the aisle. The groom and the wedding party are already in place in the front of the sanctuary and all eyes are turned toward the center-back of the room. The minister (yours truly) is the only person in the room that has a full view of everything. The bride’s grandfather was sitting on the outer aisle to my far right, even with the second pew. The point being, no one was looking his way, no one could see him but me. He was in a wheel chair too weak to walk. If you have been to any weddings (and who hasn’t) you know that as the bride begins her slow walk down the aisle everyone stands. I caught out of the corner of my eye her grandfather by himself straining with every fiber of his being to rise. It must have taken him 10-12 shaky, gut wrenching, exhausting moments to finally get his body upright. I have no idea what was going through his mind but I like to think it was something like, “There is no way my granddaughter is walking to the front of this church without me paying tribute to her by standing.” No one but me saw him rise and no one knows the great honor he paid her that day. When she finally got to the front of the sanctuary, I had tears in my eyes. I suspect she thought I was emotional because a wedding was going on. Of course that wasn’t it at all.

I wonder if you have any thoughts of people in your life who have inspired you? Goodness, I hope so! I really hope so. With that in mind… are you able to contact those folks? If so, give them a call today… or send an email… or a letter… or a text… or a smoke signal. Tell them what they have meant to you and how they have inspired you. It will bless them beyond words… and it will bless you as well.

Lord, thank you for bringing people into our lives who care for us, who disciple us, and who inspire us. Bless today my friend, relative, co worker _____________________. Let them know they are loved and appreciated by me. Amen.

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4 thoughts on “Being with people

  1. Dear Bill,
    You have inspired me and helped to deepen my faith. Thank you.
    Michael
    PS Natasha follows these writings and shares them with her friends. You inspire many more people than you realize.

  2. Love this! Thank you, Bill – you are a blessing in my life. Love you, Martha

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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