I cry fairly easily. Movies that show generous heroism, news clips of a soldier returning home, that homely British woman who sang “I Dreamed a Dream.” But my tears are private—my wife receives the dubious honor of being the only one who sees me when it happens.
Not long ago, I came home after a couple of intense counseling sessions. I sat down on the sofa, and the tears came. Then came to sobbing and it wasn’t quiet. Like she always does, my wife sat next to me with her arms around me. I told her I had done too many funerals this year. And there have been too many parents in this church who’ve had to bury their children.
It didn’t last long. And then I was okay.
I don’t let the children see me at these moments—I’m afraid it would frighten them. I think it also frightens a church to see their preacher break down. I know that everybody says they understand the preacher is human, but they don’t like to see it. So I don’t show them.
But I let my guard slip yesterday.
A year ago, I preached a funeral for a beautiful teenage girl who was killed in a wreck (leading cause of death for teens). The family was devastated but so terribly sweet—just downright classy even while they grieved. They broke my heart.
Yesterday evening someone called to tell me an ambulance was in front of the family’s house and there may have been an accidental death. As I drove, I kept praying, “No no no no. Not again. Not these people.”
There had been a death but it was a repairman who apparently collapsed and died instantly from a heart attack. I was sorry he died. He was relatively young with a wife and children. I saw his body lying in the yard and I thought about how life had just changed drastically for his loved ones.
The family was shaken but okay. I hugged the beautiful mother who had lost her child the year before, and I couldn’t help crying just a little from both relief and sadness. However, like I said before, they’re classy people so they were cool with it.
Earlier in the day, another woman lost her elderly father whom she loved deeply. She’ll grieve but because of her love her tears will not be unbearably bitter.
I also visited a man in the hospital who is very sick and has little time left, but he is still interesting and engaged with the people around him. The nurses love him; his wife is put out with him, and his pastor is often amused by him.
Throw in a protracted discussion of church budget problems and the latest conflict over where the utensils should be placed in the kitchen, and it all made for a rich full day.
Not all days are like this. And I’m not complaining about this one. It’s actually an honor to be with people during their significant moments. I feel less honored to be part of the kitchen controversies.
I just feel a need these days to tell someone what I’m about. If you’ve bothered to read through this whole thing, thanks for listening… or reading as the case may be.