I contacted a mentor of mine the other day. We hadn't talked in over a year. He responded and informed me that he lost his wife to ovarian cancer three months ago. She was 58. She had been sick for some time and about a year ago, they began asking God to let her live until this spring so she could see her daughter graduate from college. This humble, strong, godly, loving mother missed her little girl's graduation by a month. Instead of accepting her diploma and running into her mother's arms, this young lady clutched a photograph of "mom." A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it doesn't hold a candle to a hug from the one who birthed you into this world.
My mentor friend has been writing through his grief. I read some of his notes today and was deeply moved by the depth of his emotional honesty in the presence of God and the assembled witnesses. Some of his friends are concerned about him. They're wondering if he's really doing o.k. And they're unsettled by some of his questions and feelings. He just misses the rose of his heart like the dickens.
I've been reading a host of book proposals these days. Many of them have to do with the church. How the church is screwed up. How the church is consumer driven. How the church has hijacked Jesus and missed his core message, substituting it with some kind of something else. How Western Christians are self-absorbed and shallow. Most of these accusations are fair. I'm not the biggest fan of church these days either. But I find myself put off by these proposals. Maybe I'm getting older and crankier. Maybe. But it seems to me that the work of helping one another be born, grow, live and die is the stuff that life is made of. And when some of that "stuff" goes south, as in a 58-year-old mom missing her daughter's college graduation, we're there to sit and listen and cry and groan and pray and hope and trust and cry a little more. And not be unsettled by questions or doubts or if someone is o.k. If I can find someone to do that with, I'm not sure I give a flying fig whether they're consumer driven or not. Or if they've got all their theological ducks in a row or not. Or if they're a little self-absorbed. Just a little.
The point is that the church is screwed up, always has been. It's made up of flesh and blood who live in a screwed up world. Flesh and blood who keep coming together on some level to look to the skies for The Day; the time when he will come again and reunite daughters who graduated and mothers who died. And sons and fathers and friends and mentors. And he will wipe away all tears. The shallow ones and the deep ones. And on that day we will see him as he is. We see through a glass darkly now; we've always hijacked the holy one. But on that day, the brilliance of his glory will set us aright. Until then, we groan. And go on to graduate school with mom's photo in our hands. And go to bed alone on a mattress made for two. And wait for him.