Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Valley of the Shadow

We all walk through death's shadow from time to time in our lives. Not death itself -- for most, that comes but once. But each of us brushes against death when it comes to others, just bumping shoulders with the end of this life, time and again, until it is our turn to walk not merely the valley, but step into the cavern, or stride up the mountain of death.

This past week has held more shadows for me than most. I found out at work on Friday that a coworker had just lost not only her step-grandmother (to whom she was remarkably close), but also, in a completely separate incident, her husband's brother. The grandmother was almost expected to pass from this earth. The brother-in-law was not.

Then I found out (also on Friday) that a young lady in our church lost her grandmother, to whom she was also close. The viewing was to be Friday night, so we had to hustle through the car dealership as quickly as we could (which isn't very, but the car thing is less important, and therefore will be the subject of another post) to get there. The funeral and burial was to be held Saturday at 11 a.m.

Pastor Gibbs was headed out of town on Saturday, so I figured on heading up bus visitation, then heading home to work on my lesson and message for today. When I heard about the funeral, I figured I'd send the crews out on visitation and go to the funeral, probably.

Then came another phone call early Saturday morning. A man who attended our church (he has been in the process of moving to the next county, but he still drops in from time to time) was in the hospital, having had some serious emotinal problems, Pastor told me, and the man had even threatened to commit suicide the night before. There's a lot of family difficulty history here that I won't get into.

So I went to bus visitation, sent the crews out, and headed down to the hospital, not really knowing what was going on there.

When I got there, this man was in the emergency room, and they wouldn't let me in immediately. His friend, a man who he led to the Lord a while back, was in the waiting room as well, and he began to fill me in as best as he could.

Apparently, this man had pulled a gun at a family member's house quite early in the morning and threatened to commit suicide. This initiated a four-hour stand-off with the police, including the SWAT team. The poor friend was in the house, while his former mentor waved a gun and ordered him around.

It ended when the SWAT team burst in (here I get conflicting details, but what follows is agreed upon by all) and tasered the man into submission, handcuffed him, and hauled him off to the hospital for involuntary commitment.

His friend, who was there for all of this, was really shook up. He had just been through a scene from a movie, and real people don't belong in movie scenes. Some things, some situations, they just don't prepare you for in high school. For that matter, dealing with the aftermath of a situation like this got left out of the curriculum in Bible college too.

What do you say to a man, with armed special police hovering over your shoulder or just outside the room, who just came out of a four-hour armed standoff, who faces the problems he faces, who is angry at the way he has been treated (and there is some lasting bitterness over some real wrongs -- confirmed by the courts -- done to him and his family by Social Services people already)?

What do you say to his friend, who went through this ordeal? All I could do was reassure him that he did the right things. His actions may well have saved his friend's life, and perhaps even the lives of others.

And then comes the sobering realization that it could easily have been me in that house with a drunk man from my church waving a pistol and threatening to shoot me, himself, his family members, with the SWAT team poised outside. When life and death can hang balanced on whether a word spoken is the right one or not, it is then that I realize my insufficiency, the fact that in that shadowy valley, it's hard to see where to put my feet. The thing I see clearest is the oft-forgotten reality that I really need the Spirit to show me where to place my feet as I walk through that dim Valley of the Shadow of Death.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker