“What if there’s nothing there?”
A good question. An old question.
I get it more often than one might think. It’s not a question that people like to entertain.
At least in the company of other people. Especially a pastor.
The question hung in the air like a thick fog. You couldn’t see the tubes, the wires, the gown, the pad meant to catch whatever might fall from the failing body, protecting the bed. The question obstructed everything in the room.
You couldn’t see the white tab, the black suit, the small red book clutched in my hand. “Pastoral Care” was embossed on the cover.
But there wasn’t a section for apologies for the faith in there.
No. Simply prayers. And readings of prayers that people had written two thousand years ago to the God now in question.
We just sat there through tears as the question lingered.
Finally, a cough. It broke the silence, allowed for a bit of light.
The tubes were now visible, the wires, the pad, the collar, the book.
“A good question, ” I affirmed. Because it is. It’s an old one.
“But…I don’t know, I can’t grasp on to nothing. And when cells morph and stomachs rebel and eye sight fades, the Something of this world still seems graspable. Or rather…it still feels as if I’m in a grasp of some sort…the grasp of a promise made long ago that still speaks to my heart today…”
The ribbon led me to the passage. Psalm 31. An old one.
“In you Lord I take refuge…”
And the machine beeps, slowly.
“…let me never be put to shame.”
And the covers are pulled over the toes, readjusted.
“Turn your ear to me…”
A sigh of resignation is released.
“…come quickly to my rescue.”
There’s a knock at the door. The nurse shuffles the medi-cart in. On it a computer screen with meds and doses to be doled out.
“Thanks.” All that is said. To me or to the nurse? To both?
Or to the question, that though remains unanswered fully, is at least shared on more than two shoulders.
It’s true. Love is not a victory march. It’s cold, and it’s broken, and full of tubes and wires and pads…and collars and small books clutched tightly, and old promises kept…