Death has been touching the PNC community this latter part of the year. It has also been touching other communities we are close to. During this time I have been finding it very helpful to tell stories of the ones we have lost. There is something healing about remembering. And remembering need not be about sanitizing the past; it’s not about only remembering the good. In fact, I would argue that the important thing is to remember the entire person, faults and all. “John” (not his real name, in this case out of respect for his family) was a gregarious guy. He had a big personality and a great laugh. John also lived life pretty hard. He was broken. The truth is, I am broken too. So are you. We are ALL broken. That is our shared humanity. It is when we acknowledge this that we learn we are not alone.
Once we discover we are not alone, we can go about the business of creating community. It is in the context of community that we can learn we are loved, we are valued, and we are accepted no matter what happened to us in our childhoods or our marriages or on the streets. We are accepted whether we consume alcohol, drugs or too much food. If we begin to get this, then it becomes easier to lean on one another, enabling us to begin taking even the baby-est of steps toward healing and wholeness.
The good news is that we are invited to come as we are. God invites us to show up in all our brokenness and receive His full grace and mercy. We are not required to have it all together, in fact it is precisely when we realize we do not have it all together that we can fully experience the presence of God in our lives. In my own darkest moments I have met God. I don’t know why He seemingly didn’t show up until I was at the end of myself. Or maybe, it wasn’t that He didn’t show up, it’s that I was getting in the way. All of my own junk was blocking the doorway. I’m not writing this claiming to have all the answers; I am here to attest to the power of love and forgiveness in my own life.
God has spoken His love to me through my community in Parkdale. I see God in the faces of the people. I saw God in John. When PNC had to leave our building at the beginning of the summer it was the people who made me believe we could keep going without it. On the day we had to be out of the basement I still had no way to move our industrial fridge and freezer (some of the only things we still count as belongings). A mover wanted over $600 to move them one block to the building we are in right now. I was stressed. Then along came four guys who lifted those suckers up a flight of stairs, stuck them on dollies and wheeled them to the new space. One of them was John. John helped without a second thought.
Now John is gone. I know for me John’s death has stirred up the grief associated with people we have already said goodbye to. Death does that. It also reminds us of our own mortality. Let us think too of the ultimate hope that we have. Our hope is that God met John somewhere along the way and is loving him into a life free of pain and guilt and loneliness. Our hope is that He is doing that with every single one of us.