One thing that sometimes gets me down about my job is that there is a feeling that my time is not my own. I’ll be honest with you and say that this is probably more in my head than anyone else thinking they own me. I have heard other ministers say this but on the whole this has not been my experience. This feeling results in me making decisions such as “I don’t drink”. Having been tea total for so long one glass of wine and I’m falling asleep. So what if I’m called out in an emergency feeling this way? And so, because there is this internal driver which says “be available at all times” I chose not to drink unless I am away on holiday.
It’s a weird feeling to think I could be called out day or night. Obviously it doesn’t happen much at all, but when that 3 am call does come, and its either an elderly church member rushed to hospital or their nearest and dearest seeking prayer as their loved one has just slipped away, or someone facing some kind of personal crisis. Whatever the reason I need to know I can give it my best shot, even though most of the time I don’t have any answers, just support, faith and friendship.
I remember one time receiving a call from a lady asking if i would put some flowers on a grave in the local cemetery – this was two days before Christmas Eve. I was rushing around at the time delivering Christmas food parcels to the elderly, a job which I seem to have had every year now for the past 25 years! The call came when I was very busy and in my usual way of not being able to say no, I said yes of course I would! The woman explained she would send me an email with all the information and she would also send a donation to the church for my assistance. Two days later a reef of roses arrived, to accompany the detailed email giving the precise location where the grave was to be found. This whole thing made me slightly irritated. Why had I not said no? This is such a busy time and now I’ve got to trek around a cemetery looking for some random grave and deliver these flowers as well as the food parcels and its Christmas Eve!
I drove around visiting the living most of the day, most of whom were lonely at this special time and happy to see me. Eventually late afternoon, I reach the cemetery. The email the woman sent had a detailed map and despite my bad attitude the grave was easy to find. The cemetery was very busy on Christmas eve, and lots of people were doing what I was doing, laying flowers on graves, but they seemed much more connected than I was. I saw people in tears bending over graves, some obviously finding their loss very acute at this special time of year.
I had no trouble finding the matching name on the headstone to the one on the email. Suddenly any thoughts of throwing the reef down and running left me as I read the inscription. This was the grave of a 6 year old girl who had died about 35 years before. The grave was quite over grown, so I pulled back some weeds before putting the reef down. I reckon she would have been around my age if she had survived. When the plot looked a little more presentable I placed the reef down. There was a little card in an envelope which I decided I’d open and leave so people can see. It simply said “I’ll be with you soon my darling!”
And there I met with God. There in that place God sat me down and talked to me about what matters and what really doesn’t matter. One of those times when you ask what am I doing, and why? I spent a little while in that spot suddenly aware in a new way what following Jesus was all about. I returned home to my growing family and to my life on Christmas Eve, to be surrounded by love and enjoy the holiday season together, with a little more self awareness as a result of this experience.
Lord today on this Maundy Thursday as I remember how you gave yourself freely for me, I give myself once again to you.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – please will you remind me that a place is set at the table for me to share your life and death, and that you did all this for me.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!