Faces on Faith: New eyes in dark times
I had a parishioner several years ago named George. He was a vet. He’d served in the Pacific during World War II. And during that time he met a beautiful redheaded Australian named Candy. Candy was an artist, who created imaginative and colorful works of art. George and Candy fell in love, and eventually they were married and moved to the United States where George resumed his work as a printer, Candy created art, and together they raised a family.
Many years later, Candy’s memory began to fail. She’d forget little things, like where she’d put her glasses or what she needed to get at the grocery store. But then it got worse. George and Candy lived some five blocks or so from the church, and every once in a while, we’d find Candy sitting in our parlor, not really sure how’d she’d gotten there – sometimes not even knowing where she was. George would come and get her and take her home.
Eventually, he had to stay with her all the time. She eventually forgot who he was, and worse yet, who she was. She’d get belligerent. I remember taking her communion once, and her throwing the bread in my face. She’d get up at night and wander the house until George woke up and put her back to bed.
George was on duty 24/7. I knew it was wearing on him. For like Job, he had suffered much. We talked about it from time to time. And while he never lost faith in God, he often questioned the situation. How could his beautiful wife, his creative wife, fail so completely? The only thing, he once told me that kept him going, was prayer. He prayed like he’d never prayed before. Not for Candy to get better, but for him to have the strength and the love to see her through her days and nights. Sometimes, when Candy wasn’t wandering, he’d sit in the midnight stillness, and as he teared up, he’d pour his heart out to God. And then just sit in the blessed darkness, the blessed silence of God.
Franciscan Richard Rohr writes, “Most of the great religions do not demand blind faith as much as they demand new eyes.” (146) In the midst of his troubles, George gained new eyes. New eyes and new ears. He could see that beneath it all, God was there, loving him and loving Candy. How often, it seems, we only acquire those new eyes, those new ears, when we are still enough to really see, to really hear.
Grief and sorrow and anger all have their place, they are a part of what it means to suffer loss, but if you are willing to work your way through them, a time will come, Job reminds us, when you will come to that quiet place of acceptance. And there you will discover God has been present all along.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.