Grasping for truth.

On Sunday, we had our deacon ordination. Two new deacons were ordained, and I was officially relieved of my deaconate duties. At least for now. When the pastor was thanking those of us who rotated off, he mentioned the man who was the deacon chair my first year on the deaconate, our friend who passed away a little more than a year ago. I felt a sharp, sad pain when I heard that, reminding me how much we miss him.

I never wrote about my own ordination, in part because it was a personal, private experience and in part because, at the time, I was still in a fog of sadness after my dad’s death. And I was therefore not as emotionally present for it as I would have liked to be. At the end of Sunday’s ordination, the pastors helped the two new deacons up off the floor where they were kneeling (your feet can go kind of numb after kneeling that long, even on a pillow), and I mentioned to Mike that our friend had been the one to help me up. It was the wrong thing to say, because it hit both of us, again, with the loss of him. Tears burned in my eyes as we started singing the next hymn, and I was again surprised to feel that sharp pain.

The sermon was about the romantic illusions we have about serving other people vs. the grunt work that it actually is: long meetings, time away from your family, complaints, inconveniences. Our pastor suggested that, without the illusions we have about how wonderfully things might turn out, we might never actually step out in faith and serve. And then he said something beautiful: that when we reach for that illusion, what we grasp is the truth. And what we get then is something hard and real that changes and grows us.

This is true for more than just illusions about service. It applies to our illusions about relationships and romance, about parenting, about work and helping others. I have thought about what he said this week, because I have lived a lot of my life focusing on illusions, especially these two: the idea of a perfect family and the idea of long-term friendships. I am bad at relationships when times are hard, because I am not good at living in those hard and real moments. Sometimes I feel that I have had enough truth. Oh, I give lip service to that grasping, but what I really want is the illusion, and I don’t know what to do in my own life when it’s not there. I don’t know what to say to other people when it’s hard. I don’t know how to take the time to visit people in the hospital. I don’t have cards stockpiled, and I forget to send them. I hesitate to pick up the phone. I am so worried about saying or doing the wrong thing that I do nothing at all, and it hurts people. It’s why I feel that I was not the best deacon that I could have been – I didn’t manage to reach past the idea of serving to do what it was that actually needed to be done. I was involved in my own cares and concerns and life, and sometimes they were all I could manage. I believe that, even though I wasn’t able to do it, if I had been able to step outside of myself and care for other people, some of those other challenges would have taken care of themselves. Because I would not have been thinking about myself quite so much. That is one of the areas of following Jesus where I still have quite a lot to learn.

I imagine that the deacon ordination will always be a time that I think of my dad and our friend and how I miss them. That my dad wasn’t there, that my friend, who knew a thing or two about truth and illusions, was there to pull me to my feet after mine. The fact that they are no longer here is one of those hard, real truths that I am still learning how to hold.

Our friend’s house, a place where Mike spent a lot of time.

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