"I love it to pieces and hate it to shreds! How do these feelings go together?"
Those words were penned last week in a blog entry entitled "The Paradox of Ministry" by my friend, Jimmy Mitchell.
Tonight, I understand his sentiments.
Sunday was a great day at Woodward Park. One baptism. Five new members. A baby on the way. One couple married last week; another this week. It was one of those mountain-top Sundays in which the ministry of God among us was evident.
After a Monday of ministry, prayer, preparation, and counseling -- capped off with a quiet evening of Tori's dance recital rehearsal and pitch with Trae and the neighbor kids -- I settled into the Lazy-boy to watch the end of the Rangers game. My blog was all ready to go for Tuesday morning. All was calm, peaceful.
Then the phone rang.
And the ring of that phone immediately called into question everything I believe; calling my faith on the carpet in a heartbeat.
On the other end was Elaine Scheppegrell with the tragic news that provided the lead story on the local ABC-30 affiliate Monday night. Somehow, an 18-month old toddler with family ties to members at Woodward Park had been found in the bottom of his grandparents' pool. I left immediately, rushing to the ER at Community Regional Med Center downtown.
The words that met me broke my heart: little 18-month old Brantley was gone.
What do you say to a grandfather distraught with guilt? What do you say to parents so young, so inexperienced in life, still holding and kissing their son? What do you say to a family absorbed into shock by such inconceivable tragedy?
My daily Bible reading has just taken me through Job so I didn't do what Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar and Elihu did. No, take that back, I did do what they did originally -- those first seven days when they sat in stunned silence, grieving alongside Job.
In times of tragedy, can anyone do more?
Incomprehensible loss, such as the tragedy that struck on Monday evening, calls into question in an instant every piece of our faith. Everything we say we believe is front-and-center in the face of inexplicable loss. And my own therapeutic stream of consciousness spilling out confirms the confusion. The trite is forsaken as tragedy plunges its bystanders headlong into hard truth.
Tonight troubled me, such that sleep will be a fight. But my own restlessness pails in comparison to those touched most intimately. Today, would you do me a favor? Stop for a few minutes and intercede in prayer for the Colwell family. This entire family stands in need of the comfort Paul speaks of in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. For those of you in Fresno, this tragedy has most deeply touched Tom & Elaine Scheppegrell and Randy & Debbie Jacobs who are extended family to the Colwell's. They desperately need the presence of the Shepherd to walk with them in this valley.
Oh, and before I lay down to fight myself to sleep, I'm going to kneel at my daughters' bedsides and pray God's protection over them.