Yesterday I spent an hour with my hospice Chaplain. I shared my concern about “leaving things hanging”, and gave her an example of where my files are and my loved ones not being able to find them. Before she could reply, my son spoke up and said; ‘Don’t worry about those things, Dad, we don’t want you to spend your time shuffling files and papers—we’d rather spend the time with you and we’ll find what we need when we need it.
That led to a discussion about “letting go” of our anxieties. My chaplain asked me to tell her a time that I felt God working in my life. I gave her an example from the time of my first wife’s death. She fell and in a week died of severe brain bleed. It was so sudden that I had a hard time dealing with it because I was dealing with a situation that I couldn’t fix. At one point I remember crying and telling God “help me, I can’t do this alone”!! And a sense of peace came over me that let me know that God was present and would help me cope with my grief. That moment changed my relationship with God forever…I truly knew God was in that room!! I felt his presence.
As the chaplain left she gave me this advice: “You need to take all of your anxieties and give them to God. Let go of your anxieties and put your trust in God !”
How many times I have given this advice to people who are approaching end of life, both in the role of a hospice chaplain and a pastor?—yet I had not done it myself. I realized I need to practice what I preach!
I think there is a lesson for all of us, particularly ministers,perhaps, but really it should be a lesson for all Christians. The lesson is that if we really believe God is a God of love and is present in our lives we should put our trust in God in all things. Our anxiety means we are not doing this. We are not trusting God.
We need to read again what Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew, chapter six, when he told his disciples to consider the birds of the air who do not toil or spin, and yet God takes care of them. He tells his disciples that if God does this for birds, why will he not also take care of you for you are worth many birds to God.
All human beings live under the illusion they are the ones who are in control of their lives. Especially Americans see themselves as “rugged individualists” who have a “I can do it by myself and don’t need anyone else to help me”attitude. This even shows up in our attitude toward church in the feeling that “I don’t need the church. I can have my own personal relationship with God without s bunch of sinners around me who are more messed up than me. ” These people say “I am not religious, I’m spiritual’.
This illusion is exposed when we face end of life. I am seeing how illusory the attitude is as I grow more and more dependent on hospice and on those I love There are many things I can’t do and my wife and son Greg are always there to help me. Without them I would be in a nursing home already—-but with them with me and with hospice I am able to be home in surroundings I love. I am loved and cared for by others and am very blessed with a church family who visits, sends cards a . I am seeing how false the illusion of “individualism”is as I get telephone calls and cards from friends and loved ones both in the church and outside the church.
We are born to live in relationship with others. We started as babies completely dependent on our parents for a long period of time., and many of us end our lives in the same way—dependent on those who love us. All of our lives we need relationships. We are created in the image of God who wants relationship with us—- Love is a relationship word and cannot be limited anymore than God can be limited . Love is shown only through action in relationship to others;
We need others in our lives if we love God. God is not completely loved by us until we love our neighbors., because they are all God’s children. It is the role of the church to provide those relationships and to encourage us to develop relationships with God and our fellow human beings. To those who who say “I have a personal relationship with God and that’s all I need” I would say “stop fooling yourself.” You cannot fully love God if you don’t fully love your neighbors., God’s children, made in God’s image.
God works with these neighbors to provide his love and care to you. They actually are the deliverers of God’s grace. You cannot receive God’s love and care on a bank with a fishing pole in your hand. You receive God’s love through others who love God and are recipients of God’s love and grace.