Being and Doing

Some nights ago I sat and talked with a young man whose newly-married wife is dying of a dreadful, slow and terminal disease. I heard the ghastly, dull and dry formulaic tone of my voice echoing fixed reassurances, set texts, prescriptive comforts, rehearsed assurances, almost magical rituals supposed to heal the pain. Thank God, I managed not lapse into clichés about God’s Will, Divine Providence beyond our understanding, ultimate good….even (God help me!) the spiritual benefits of suffering. He was much more patient than I could have been in response to some parody of “good comfort”. All that I could, in reality, offer to him was my presence – as sounding board, shoulder upon which to cry, punching bag at which to direct entirely understandable anger…..practical adviser….cook, cleaner, laundryman. I realized, yet again, that the silence of love is what is required. It is not my role to do but to be. The pastoral must always be responsive not prescriptive.
being and doing
My remaining inspiration in the face of my entirely inadequacy comes from a simple hymn,

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