March Evangelism Newsletter
This month we continue exploring our Episcopal Evangelism challenge for 2022: Creating authentic communities of friends within our churches to live out our baptismal promises and the church’s mission – to restore and be restored in unity with God and each other, in Christ.
Our guest Evangelism Catalyst this month is Ellie Singer, who is helping us imagine what it means to love one another through forgiveness.
We are dust.
We keep company with sadness. We learn the lament of everyone who holds quietly to the knowing: things are not as they should be. And still we hope. Still we see our Redeemer come. – Alia Joy
“Carry each other’s burdens…”
(Galatians 6:2 )
“Confess your sins to each other…”
“…Forgive whatever grievances you
may have against one another.”
About a month ago, I sat alone in a hospital waiting room. If you’ve ever been in for a breast biopsy, you may be familiar with the pink gowns that tie in the front and the gym lockers provided to hold your outside things. In this vesting room, I had stripped away my clothes, wallet, phone, and keys. I stuffed everything I carried from the world beyond the hospital into an anonymous locker and traded them for this thin pink robe and a locker key.
I don’t know how much time passed because there was no clock and my phone was locked away. Most of an HGTV dream home episode aired, so maybe twenty minutes? Without instructions, I remained in my seat, locker key in hand. I didn’t have anything else, anyone else, to keep me company.
Occasionally, other patients arrived. We didn’t make eye contact. They vested too, into robes or their outside things; sometimes they would sit facing away from me, toward the wall-mounted TV in the corner. More often, a nurse immediately whisked them away, ready to perform a diagnostic.
It struck me that this waiting room saw waves of grief and relief, held within each body, never spoken. How many people cried here? Who heard them? Were they terrified like me? Grateful?
In that waiting room, dwelling in anxiety, I prayed for each passing face.
Whenever I’m alone for a time, God plants a seed of prayer on my heart. As an extrovert, I tend to avoid these seeds; waiting for my biopsy, Jesus had me cornered. I found myself imagining patients with faces I recognized. My family, my friends, vesting alone for diagnostics. My mind drifted to acquaintances and then to people who frustrate me. I imagined them all in pink robes, holding tight to a locker key, praying to receive good news.
I don’t know anything about the folks who sat with me in the antiseptic glow of the HGTV construction site. Being in this difficult place, my instinct was to care for them. But surely, I realized, obnoxious and even sinful personalities passed through this vesting room too. Who’s to say the woman who just sat down wouldn’t press my buttons? Who knows what malicious comment another patient wrote online that morning?
One of the hardest things Jesus teaches is forgiveness. God calls us to love one another, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s difficult. In the waiting room, love was easy. Outside, when we get to know each other as complicated people, loving gets more complicated too.
My tests came back with healthy results, and I won’t need to go back for some time yet. But I will always carry the prayer God whispered in my ear in that waiting room:
“Life is short. We don’t have much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk this way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind.” (Henri-Frédéric Amiel)
You never know what waiting rooms lurk in the background of another’s life. We are dust, and we all keep company with sadness. Yet God has blessed us with each other, to walk the way as companions. I pray for the grace to love all my companions, burdens and grievances and all.