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We often associate difficulties in life with the absence of God. But in reality, we are accepted into God's love and hope in all life circumstances. My own journey through life has confirmed that when we are groaning in life's realities God does not abandon us. Hope remains alive because God cares about us in our pain.
When we are able to admit to, and talk openly about our vulnerability, we open the doors for others to safely share their pain. It could be a brain disorder, a heart disorder, the loss of someone we love or any other painful reality. Open conversation addresses our pain. Jesus was always involved in caring conversation with people who were vulnerable. Jesus did not question their painful realities or expect them to be personally responsible. But Jesus did question those who approached him from a position of strength. When we use strength as our framework for relationships, we frequently stifle communication. We find ourselves standing in judgment of people who are vulnerable. When we function like a steamroller, we squelch the opportunity for caring dialogue. By not seeking to understand the painful circumstances someone else is facing, we keep our rigid realities intact. All too frequently what we see and hear in the arena of religion lacks compassion and understanding. The temptation is always there to create comfort zones for ourselves that deny the difficult life circumstances of others. When openness is present the door is open to hope and faith.
While vacationing in Colorado last summer, I had my second experience with a blocked artery. Fourteen years ago a blockage was opened through by-pass heart surgery. This summer one of those grafts closed, and I suffered a mild heart attack. After returning to Juneau, my local doctor sent me to Seattle. This time a stent was inserted in my heart and the blood began to flow. My energy level quickly returned. Throughout these experiences I received excellent care and was blessed with open communication by those who cared for me. I was blessed with prayer, understanding, compassion and love by family, congregation and friends. Life was restored through openness in my internal heart and to my external reality.
Our vulnerabilities are times when learning, growth and faith frequently occur. When heart blockages occur, we face a health crisis. When blockages involve our attitudes toward people, we also do damage to ourselves and others. As we focus on opening ourselves to God and to all God's people, we are healed of our self-imposed blockages.
Life is frequently muddled, for a host of reasons. When we think we've got all the answers and our life is planned out, an unforeseen circumstance may be lurking. When undesirable circumstances become the reality, we can seek to deny the circumstance and blame God, or grow into an understanding of God's great love for us, and for all people. Life throws us for a loop sometimes, but as we open ourselves to God, and to God speaking to us through unlikely people, we find ourselves on a pathway of hope rather than a dead end.
When one of life's surprises comes your way, and simplistic answers don't work, remember Jesus' example of unconditional care and concern for those with a blockage. May we not block out our vulnerabilities or the vulnerability of others! Rather, may we be opened to God's loving presence in all circumstances of life.
Larry Rorem is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.