Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
~ Psalm 130
When I was in my first unit of clinical pastoral education at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville, Kentucky, there was a couple that wanted to have their baby baptized. The child was still born and one of the local clergy refused to baptize the child because the person did not believe in baptizing the dead and so he refused.
The parents were not only grieving the loss of their child, but they also were grieving the fact that they felt abandoned in their time of need by their church. It was a day of crying out to God for some understanding.
As a resident working in the chaplain department I was called to the bedside of this family. When I entered the room it was somewhat dark. A few silhouettes from across the room could be seen, sitting against the wall. One person had her face buried in her hands. The other two, just sat staring. I moved closer to the bed, and found the young mother, holding her baby, and the father sitting beside her. The silence was painful. "It wasn't supposed to be this way," the father told me as I approached.
"Will you introduce me to your son?" I asked.
"His name is William," the baby's mother told me. I looked, and saw a child that was disfigured. At first I found that my mind immediately thought, "I'm grateful this child didn't have to live in this world looking like this. It would have been cruel."
And then I thought, "How could one of God's servants not recognize the holy in this child and the moment?"
Sometimes the church is the unnecessary source of our pain, and when that happens, there are not words to describe what that feels like.
The parents cried aloud, and I found that I had tears building in my eyes as I took the child into my arms, and with the tears of each parent, I dedicated William in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
There have been moments in my life when the encounter with the Holy is so overwhelming that even surrounded by the cries of those who mourn, there was a sense of sacredness that could not be denied.
When we cry out, God hears us. I have to believe that God understands our pain.
On that day I learned that the church can be a source of pain, but even in that pain, God still hears those who cry and responds to our needs.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, I don't always understand why things happen the way that they do, but when I consider that You know each of us personally, it is easier to share both good things and bad with You. Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.