Faith & Worship: Finding God in the midst of brokenness and suffering

Published 4:52 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The humor before our eyes is sometimes too evident for us to see at first glance. My wife, Sharol, is often fond of showing me how ridiculous I really am even though I seem perfectly normal to myself. A couple of weeks ago, I told my wife that I missed St. Louis, the city from which we moved. She said, “Yes, I know what you mean. I miss our friends, the zoo, and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.”

I said, “Yes, yes, all those are very fine things to miss, but I miss the absurdities of St. Louis. I miss the fact that we could hear the bus driver over the loudspeaker as though she were in our bed with us. I miss the homeless and mentally ill people who wandered all over our neighborhood. I miss all of the stuff that seemed to be out of control and breaking down right before our eyes.”

She looked at me with a sideways glance, rolled her eyes, and told me that I was certifiably crazy. I nodded in agreement with her, and said, “I know I’m crazy, but hear me out. All the great things about St. Louis are wonderful, but they didn’t fill the warp and woof of our lives. All the broken and crazy things that we had to navigate around, ponder, and find a place in our geography of space, time, and concern. Those are the things that made St. Louis vital and real. Those are the people, places, and things that could not be swept under the rug by the politicians and think tanks. Those were the things made me really ponder who I was in relation to God and to my neighbors. If every…”

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My wife cut me off quickly, and said, “I know, I know, if everything were perfect and in its place, then we wouldn’t be needed. If everything were perfect and in its place, then we wouldn’t have to wrestle with our limitations and our own sense of where God is in the midst of this brokenness and suffering.”

“Yes! That’s exactly right,” I said, “but I wouldn’t want to be in that space all of the time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by suffering and my own limitations.”

As we both fell silent and looked out our back windows, I thought about where all of the broken places are here in Tryon and Polk County. Where are the people and places that I would sweep under a rug just to make Tryon and Polk County a little bit more precious and tidy?

For me it is easy to think about how perfect everything could be, but God always knocks me over the head, and commands me to look at that which isn’t neat, pretty, or readily fixable. We are blessed here in Tryon and Polk County.

We live surrounded by natural beauty and in a beautiful little town; however, God is calling us not just to look at the beautiful mountains, people, and shops, but also to search Him out in the difficult places that bring us up against our limits.

“Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!” (Psalm 41:1)

Father Robert Ard, Holy Cross Episcopal Church