Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dorene, Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord

I remember the last conversation we had standing in the front of the sanctuary that Sunday morning.

Both of us had moved away from California and both were back. Dorene and her husband Clarence moved back after a ten year hiatus serving with the Billy Graham organization. Bill and I were back for the weekend and Bill was preaching that morning.

I had my wife of the preacher hat on.

Dorene and I hugged in greeting. It was so good to see her again. I think she felt the same.
But there was a sadness about her. And she trusted me with it.

She spoke words of hurt. This woman who had a big heart for ministry to other women could no longer identify her place. Involved before her move in the women’s ministry was truly only the tip of her encouraging heart. Her smile invited trust; she listened; she prayed; she led.

It seemed to her, that was all history. Younger women held the positions she once defined herself by. Who was she now? Where did she belong?

I listened—kind of—all the while formulating my response.

I cringe remembering my words.

Oh, Dorene, no. You still have much to offer; you still are a great blessing—or some platitudes along those lines.

Really, what did I know? We were visiting for the weekend.

Our perceptions of reality, our feelings ARE TRUE FOR US—whether or not they are truly true. My words tried to negate her true.

Love is kind. I wish my words had been kinder; even, Oh Dorene, that must be so hard, would have been kinder.

God’s wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, merciful, sincere. Inviting her to tell me more would have shown wisdom and true concern.

Praying with her and for her right there in the midst of the growing congregation would have communicated care and that she is still important to me.

I did none of the above.

Her recent death brought this story back. My shame is real and is also fading. 

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble" Psalm 107:1, 2.

God is redeeming this story for me. I’m learning to listen better; I’m learning to be kinder; I’m learning to let my words be prayers.

Although I can’t speak for Dorene, like I’ve been vulnerable with you, she was vulnerable with me that morning. She didn’t find an understanding soul in me, but I bet she shared her feelings with others too. My guess is that she found a community of grace who loved her well in the midst of her hard.

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