I just read an article in the November edition of Reader’s Digest called “Love, Faith and War.” It is a short article (duh…Reader’s Digest, after all) about two chaplains in Afghanistan. Very well written….with carefully chosen quotes and situations that brought the story to life.
I checked the RD website to see if the story was on the internet but I couldn’t find it. (There is an article called “Fifty Secrets Nurses Won’t Tell You”…..interesting read….and a bunch of other interesting titles)
There was a snippet, a quote by Capt. David Knight, that stuck out.
“Much of the chaplains job, he says, is not resolving problems or offering advice but simply being present as the patients and the staff cope with terrible situations”
“You need to be OK with people hurting, he says.”
He calls this sitting with the ashes, a reference to the Biblical story of Job, who lost his family, his health, and all his possessions. “He was sitting in the ashes mourning and his friends came and sat with him,” he says.
Now granted, Job’s friends are infamous for their “miserable comforting” techniques…..but perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there too. What not to do when we sit in the ashes with someone who is hurting.
As a mom, I’ve had to sit with the ashes. All three of my kids have had difficulties and heartache in their lives. Many times….most times…they brought it on themselves. There have been times when, out of futility and necessity, I’ve stopped beating my head against the brick wall of trying to control the situation and simply been there with them in the ashes.
Right now, one of my kids is going through a challenging situation. Nothing that will matter all that much ten years from now, but a costly, most definitely avoidable mistake that involves a lot of unpleasant untangling and damage control. And I’m sitting with the ashes.
And it hurts like hell to watch someone you love in distressing situations. Especially your kids. Especially your “mom, I’m and adult now” kids. They are….yet they aren’t. A time of transition…with one foot still in the old world of childhood and dependency….but the other foot in a new world of “I’m my own person and can do what I want.”
And I wonder if God feels that way about us. He tells us, he warns us, he guides us….but sometimes we get that rebellious burst of “I’m my own person and can do what I want.” And when things fall apart, he sits with us in the ashes.
I know he does because I’ve felt his presence very strongly in the ashes. And I believe his heart aches for us when we make a mess of things….and he promises that he will (eventually)bring beauty out of the ashes…..