Tuesday, June 10, 2008
sad trip "home"
I was struggling with sharing why I have not posted in a few days. However, my wife's post yesterday makes my lack of candor unneeded.
On Friday I found out that an old friend from High School (actually we had even attended preschool together) had committed suicide. He left behind 3 children and a lovely wife (another old friend) along with grieving parents (and grandparents), a sister and hundreds of cousins and friends (in a small town you are not sure where the cousins end and the friends begin).
We had not been close since I went to Texas for grad school and had hung out sporadically, mostly after church when I came home as the preacher boy made good or at a high school reunion. He had always reminded me that he had high expectations for me, as the one minister to come out of our high school class (strangely I am seen in such a light by the majority, it seems) and always been the first to offer support.
As I returned home yesterday, I remembered how out of place I always was in Live Oak (a town known for its cave diving, lack of legal alcohol and music fests) and how far removed I am from my heritage. I always expect someone to see the city boy and want to beat him up, or get a ticket because my plates are from out of town. I always find myself struggling with the spiritual translation between the simple Baptist faith of my home church and my nuanced "emerging" Christianity, smiling when well meaning deacons make simplistic and somewhat trite spiritual dictums owing more to Garth Brooks than Jesus.
I kindly explain why I think Jesus wants us to care for the poor, taking the inevitable hit for "liberal" theology or politics of those wanting to know how to keep the poor from being dependent on us or the government (only occasionally reminding people that the oil companies cannot function without government handouts). I close my eyes during the portion of the funeral services that inevitably turns away from the proceedings at hand and towards a de facto alter call with hands raised for those that "asked Jesus to enter their hearts" at this funeral service. And I eat barbeque with sweet tea, forgiving all affronts to my postmodern, highly critical, citified and elitist sensibilities.
I spoke for a moment at the funeral yesterday, compelled to say something different from the typical "Hold on to Jesus and don't loose faith for he has gone someplace better" message. Heck I don't even understand how comforting that really is for someone with such a loss. I only reminded this friend's parents of our conversations as teenagers around our commitments to Jesus at an early juncture of our faith journeys and told the congregation that all those gathered had a responsibility to this new Widow and her 3 children. Their responsibility went far beyond simplistic words of "comfort" today and prayers.
This Southern town has many warts and flaws. However, when it is at its best, there are few communities that are stronger (or more complex in their web of relationships). It is my prayer that it moves far beyond spiritual platitudes towards the kind of community all of us long for and carries this family through their grief to their new "normal." I know it can.