Mar 082013 6 Responses

The Day I Almost Died by Rear-Ending a Hearse

I almost died by rear-ending a hearse.

One grief-stricken day we were making our way from the funeral home to the cemetery when a mini-van nearly ran a stop sign. Had she not stopped, she would have T-boned the hearse with a great impact. The driver was clearly shaken. Realizing it was a friend, I began to laugh hysterically and wave so that she knew I saw the event. While I wasn’t watching the road, the hearse stopped and I nearly did not. A last minute flinch and a few screeching tires saved me from either the most embarrassing funeral ever or the most ironic death of all time. (See: And After the Funeral She Hit Him in the Nuts)

One of the unique aspects of being a pastor is a constant interaction with life and death. At many hospitals the Intensive Care Unit and Labor and Delivery Unit are one the same floor. It serves as a metaphor for life. At any point, we are a breath away from complete joy or unimaginable sorrow.

Interestingly, it’s the Labor and Delivery Unit which makes me most nervous. I know what to expect in the ICU, some make it and some don’t. In Labor and Delivery, few people realize the depth of sorrow which is possible. I’m always nervous. I have stories from every waiting room—the stillbirth, the undiagnosed condition, the uncontrollable bleeding which puts life in danger. Sometimes the pastorate feels like a constant awareness of what can go wrong.

As a Junior High kid feeling an urge to preach, I never realized it was a call to a life filled with grief. The great joy of the pastorate is to love and be loved by so many people, yet with love comes great sorrow. Everyone should bury their grandparents, but how many adoptive grandparents should a person mourn. Everyone should attend the funeral of one child, but how many does it take before a person begins to lose their soul?

Yet every time the grief almost feels overwhelming, there is life. Even at the funeral, joy is felt. Even in the chaos of the revelation of adultery, faith is seen. Even as we weep in Labor and Delivery, someone in ICU lives; or as we weep in ICU a healthy baby is born in Labor and Delivery. Marriages are saved; prodigals return home; addicts get clean; broken hearts find a second love. In the midst of all the grief, we find hope in the goodness of God and the mercy he shows. Sometimes the pastorate feels like a constant awareness of what could go right. 

This is the tension which overwhelms my life—greatness can occur, sorrow can invade. Both are true at every moment of life. So each joy is twinged by the fleeting nature of this earth and every sorrow is tempered by the hope which is to come.

The result is that life is never as good as we think or as bad as we think. We should never believe we have figured it out and we should never feel as though we might as well give up.

Tomorrow is not defined by today, whether good or bad.

Many live in denial of our own experience leading to a naivety at the greatness of life or a depression over the sorrow of life. (See: 7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts)

I feel as though God calls us out of denial and invites us to embrace the reality of our plight. Life is good and bad. As we remember the dual nature of our lives it gives us strength in the midst of grief and appreciation in the midst of joy.

Are you laughing today? Take a moment to weep for those who are suffering.

Are you suffering today? Take a moment to rejoice for those who are laughing.

And if I ever rear-end a hearse and suffer a tragic death—laugh in the midst of your tears because that would be an ironic way to go.

 

6 Responses to The Day I Almost Died by Rear-Ending a Hearse
  1. Becky Reply

    This might just be my favorite post yet.

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