On Tuesday a co-worker had a heart attack.
On Wednesday my mother, who lives halfway across the country, fell while leaving a funeral and hit her head. The ambulance ride and the staple in her skull that followed are part of her learning to live with Parkinson’s disease.
On Thursday my father-in-law, who lives fifteen hundred miles away, was diagnosed with skin cancer. He begins radiation next week. That will complicate things as he is caring for my mother-in law, who recently had a heart attack and is dealing with side effects.
On Friday my sister-in-law sent me a Facebook message that my cousin, who is my age and who has cancer, has been placed in hospice care and has been given about six months to live.
Later that day I got a text that a former colleague, not yet thirty, was told his rare form of cancer has reappeared.
A few minutes after that my sister texted to say that my dad had gone to the Emergency Room while on a trip.
All of this news came as a snowstorm paralyzed our city. At the same time, I was working with a family to prepare for a funeral on Saturday.
While absorbing all of that information, I overlooked a meeting with some friends. In looking at my calendar to reschedule that gathering, I saw that I had promised my spouse to take our car in for a vehicle emissions test. Agh! Too much.
I texted my spouse to say I wasn’t going to the emissions testing center. I was tired, grumpy, worried about my friends and family members, sick of shoveling snow, and just ticked off at the universe. So I took a nap.
It was a crappy day.
I’m a pretty happy person. I’ve learned to cope fairly well with difficult news that is part of my pastoral work. I also recognize that my friends and family members have good health care insurance and aren’t having to walk as refugees from Syria to Germany. I believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. I believe that God is working things out for good.
Still, it was a crappy day.
When I woke up from my nap, I made a list of five things I learned from that crappy day. Here they are:
- Sometimes pastors have crappy days. Pastors may preach good news on Sundays and church members may want to believe that ministers’ lives are all rainbows, unicorns, pleasant family meals, and happy talks with Jesus.Not so. Sometimes pastors are glum, angry, and tired. If you are a church member and reading this, remember that. And be kind. If your pastor seems distracted, doesn’t reply to your email, or is riddled with doubt, there are often good reasons for that.
- Sometimes church members have crappy days. Being a Christian does not make you perfect. (Neither does being a Muslim or a Jew or Buddhist or an atheist or a “none.”) Pastors, if you are reading this, remember that. And be gracious. If a church member points out a typo in the bulletin or forgets to turn in her pledge card or needs to just sit in your office and cry, there are all kinds of reasons for that.
- Prayer won’t fix these situations. I gave up on the God-as-Mechanic-In-Sky idea a long time ago. God is not waiting on me to say, “O, Magical Repair Dude, please heal my mom and my friend and my colleague. And, while you’re at it, please make the line at the emissions place short.” If God needs me to point out the worries of the world, then She hasn’t been paying attention. Still, I pray, because…
- Prayer changes me. When I pray for others, I find myself thinking about myself: I should mail a card, make a phone call, bake a casserole, visit the sick, tend to my own health better, slow down some, be kinder, pray more, or even take more naps. Which brings me to the fifth thing I learned from a crappy day…
- Naps are good.
Timothy Tutt is a wanderer, wonderer, husband, father, laugher, liberal, Texan-by-birth, Washingtonian-by-choice (yep, DC). He is the senior minister at Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ in Bethesda. Take a look at his blog ZenTexas.blogspot.com