“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”
Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
~ John 16:16-22
A mutual friend, and pastor, shared with me this morning. "We are sitting here planning my wife's funeral," as he struggled to talk. "As a pastor we always speak of being prepared. We always hope that the people in our parish will plan. Planning what you want for your funeral is so important. Today I'm struggling with this advice. It is the paradox of joy and sorrow."
He continued to share, and we ended up talking about the paradox of the cross, and that the idea of death for any of us is the reality of the cross as well. We know that without the cross, we would not have eternal life, but that we would not have eternal life of the cross with the sorrow surrounding it as well. I began to realize that we found a way to make "shop talk," even at a time like this.
I must admit, being the pastor to a pastor, and a friend at the same time, has many hidden pitfalls. I say this in the most loving of ways. In my years of serving churches in one form or another, I realize that as a pastor, caring for our own is something most of us struggle to do. So, making sure that I am doing "what's right," for my friend is so important to me because I know of his wonderful ministry for years to others.
He laughed as I made a religious remark about "God's presence and faithfulness."
He reminded me that we live in a world where we want custom made clothes that fit perfectly, but we shop at stores that only have clothes ready off the rack.
He's right, you know. Our ability to be the living instrument of Christ in the world is filled with many moments where our words and actions are straight out of a book on discipleship, and it falls short of who and what God wants us to be to one another. It's the, "We will be praying for you," when the person wants to hear, "I am sorry with you. I feel your pain," or, "I'm just as angry with you."
While he talked about all the things that his wife has meant to him, and what she has done for others, his heart continued to find new ways to break. He wants answers, and he doesn't want to hear, "It's some part of God's greater plan."
It is the harsh reality of the cross and it is the paradox of life. It is joy and sorrow "trickling down," like the hymn suggests.
We all know what this is like. It is the unique consequences of the Divine encountering dust, of life and death, and the struggle to understand eternity when we are faced with our own mortality. It is Jesus telling the Disciples, I will be leaving you, and you will be sad, but at some point you will once again know joy.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.