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 stillborn and one of the local clergy refused to come and be with the young couple and their baby. They wanted their child to be celebrated, while also, acknowledging their faith that God was present with them.
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 at the wall. 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 can be the unnecessary source of our pain, and when that happens, there are no 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. With a few drops of scented oil, I dedicated William in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and then held him. All I could think was that this baby only knew the hands of those who loved him.
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 can be a sense of sacredness that cannot 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) 2020
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.