Thursday, 24 April 2014
Dear Inner Circle,
In this short week I’ve had two funerals and arranged for another two next week. A young woman with only days to live asked me from her hospital bed, “Do you think God will have a kind of ’second level’ in heaven? Do you think he has any sort of ’second prize’? I held both her hands and said, “I don’t think there is anything ’second class’ about you. I think you were the perfect example of you and I think you’re in for a shock because you’ll walk into heaven to a standing ovation”.
Standing by a coffin a young man tried to pay tribute to his father but every attempt at a word lead to a sort of choking convulsion. I held the man in my arms for a while but it was clear that words were not going to come. The last 12 months with his father had been difficult and the last meeting was particularly sharp as the son was inclined to make his father pay, not for anything the father had done but because life hadn’t panned out the way the son expected. The fathers sudden and unexpected death had lifted a curtain to reveal a sight that could not be acknowledged nor comprehended and now no apology was possible.
A woman sat in my office shaking with rage as she told me of a lifetime of cruelty. She too was venting her anger on people in her life, making them pay for a history they never created. With surprising honesty she told me how she makes her partner’s life most difficult. I listened and I sat in wonder before a beautiful present, never unwrapped. I imagined her partner and some friends in the room, shy, scared and punch drunk from this wild cat and lost, sad little girl. At one stage I asked, “Is this what you really want?” Somehow a curtain was lifted and she saw the unbearable. She was bashing up the people from whom she needed love. At least for a moment, truth brought us to paralysis as we saw the cruelty she was now inflicting on people who didn’t deserve it.
Please let me tell you that your last day is closer than you think. I urge you to look at those you love or hate and give them your eulogy today. Assume this is your last day together and that your next meeting will be your last. Think of what you’d say at their funeral and speak those words to them. We live poorly, giving priority to small things and allowing mighty things to evaporate simply because we assume we’ll live for a long time. We live better lives when our last day is nearly here. I urge you to look behind your own curtain. Worry less for a short time about whether your ’needs are being met’ and instead look at what you have and who you have. Give someone a eulogy (literally a ‘good word’) today.
One funny old sausage stepped to the front to pay tribute to his friend. He looked around the crowd in a pause that seemed to extend for too long. He then took out his dentures and put them in his pocket so that he could pay his respects to his, “fabulouth ffffriend”. I love how our deepest moments come often in the absurd and how our highest moments are often also messy moments. The Wayside is a place to meet those who have fallen but it is also the place to find humanity soaring to it’s finest and highest.
Thanks for being part of this inner circle,
Rev. Graham Long
Pastor and CEO
The Wayside Chapel
Click here to listen to podcasts of past Inner Circle's, aired on ABC 702's 'Afternoons with James Valentine'
Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter if you have an account; @waysidepastor
Previous Inner Circles
17 April: Collective love
10 April: Cardiac arrest
3 April: Awe struck
27 March: You're invited to something special
20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss
13 March: It's all happening at the wayside
6 March: Love makes all the difference
27 February: What goes around
20 February: The joy of being empty handed
13 February: Loving the growth spurts
6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside
23 January: Some criminals have class
16 January: Wonderful surprises
9 January: Ready, set
19 December: Thanks for an awesome year
12 December: Mission and wishin'
5 December: The ups and downs and all is well
28 November: Kissed by the community
21 November: Our cup runneth over
14 November: A revelation from wayside
7 November: When excrement happens
31 October: I am therefore I think
24 October: We are surrounded by heroes
17 October: When you least suspect
26 September: A wayside wobbly
19 September: Knowing a gift
12 September: Advancing at the retreat
5 September: A little dose of good
29 August: Fighting with a feather
22 August: The boom is just beginning
15 August: True riches
8 August: Small is beautiful
1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views
25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside
18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage
27 June: Holy ground