Sometimes being a pastor can be quite a burden. Funerals, for example, are really emotionally hard for me. Most of the time, however, I find it to be quite a joy. Sometimes a day is filled with both of the good and the bad.
One day in particular stands out in my mind. I had been spending the afternoon visiting with the shut-in members of my church. These elderly people had a lot of physical troubles - age had sapped their bodies of the vitality they had known. For some, the whirlpool of entropy had engulfed their minds as well. For the most part, though, these seniors still kept a cheery outlook. They knew where their strength really rested.
My last visit was with Fannie Buford. She had been a pillar of the congregation for over sixty years, and she would pray through the entire photo directory every week, which, I must admit, is no small feat. It was the same old routine – I would give her bit of church news; tell who had been visited by the stork, that type of thing. And then we would pray for a while, sing a few hymns and then have Communion.
"You know what, Pastor," she said to me as I was shoving my arms into my coat. "I really don't appreciate what I've been given. Oh, hush now. I'm in good health for my age, and the company is always charming. I spend much of my time praying about selfish things, things that don't matter in the long run. I should be thankful for every breath I take, even if it is helped by an oxygen tank. Now, you run along now, you hear? I'm sure that pretty little wife of yours has gotten a nice dinner all ready for you."
So, I did. You know she probably was right about dinner – it probably was wonderful. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it home in time for the meal that night.
While I was driving on the beltway, a car crossed the median and plowed right into a Taurus, and all of a sudden, all of the rush hour traffic was thrown into a standstill.
It was an accident, the police decided. Some teens had liberated some vodka from the liquor cabinet before taking the family car for a joy ride. They had been having a grand old time, too, from what I understand. But, inhibited reaction time and increased bravado will only lead to a detrimental outcome.
Both cars were smashed up pretty badly. I remember quite a few ambulances and fire trucks rushing to the scene. I remember praying; it was the only thing that I really could do. Praying for the people in both cars, praying for the emergency workers, praying for the families of the victims . . . God has a reason for everything, I'm convinced of it. Praying is the only way that we can really make sure that we remain within His plans.
By the time I got to the hospital, all of the people involved were pretty bad off. The teenager's parents had been notified, and they got there shortly after I did. So did the wife of the man in the Taurus, looking frightened and draggled. A few older ladies were with her, supporting her from either side, whispering and handing her a steady stream of Kleenexes.
"Mrs. Stevens?" A man in blood-smeared scrubs was standing in the center of the emergency room's waiting area.