This morning the Reverend Dr. James Forbes, senior pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, is speaking at Riverside to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. I've been considering going up to hear him since last night when I heard that he was going to be speaking. I've heard Forbes preach a number of times - he is a gifted orator; usually moving, and inspiring, however the politically-charged and divisive senior pastor scandal last year at Riverside, coupled with my recent personal experiences with churches and liturgy, have me leaning in the direction of not going. Recently I have witnessed much artifice but little substance; lots of talk - not so much walk.
While struggling with some personal issues, with Frankie's illness and death, and while wrestling with the responsibilities of being a health-care proxy, I've sought support in various places. Surprisingly the church was not very receptive to my needs. I do realize that I am responsible for my own experience of things and that all the things that don't work for me have one thing in common: me. Having been part of a church community, however, and having specifically asked for help, I am still somewhat surprised that I didn't receive more reaching out, more pastoral care. Perhaps I have been looking outside myself for some sort of spiritual panacea when I might have been concentrating on myself and how I could be growing spiritually.
Friends In Deed has been a good resource for grief counseling and self care, and I am blessed to have a small but consistent network of people who freely share their experience with me in a way that is firm, yet gentle and loving. I've had the opportunity to speak with some remarkable people these past few months; pastors, social workers, hospice workers - I have found that the people who choose to work with dying people and their families are astoundingly caring and helpful - one doesn't go into that line of work for money or prestige. They have reminded me that they will remain available to me when or if I choose to seek support though them.
Help is all around me if I take the time to seek it out. If I am quiet and look inside, I can sometimes listen to that Inner Voice that usually sets me on the path of Good Orderly Direction. I have a full set of spiritual tools, I just usually choose not to use them until I'm in pain. There is a saying that 'God is good all the time', and I have to believe that having come through this difficult patch without much outside help has allowed me to see my own strength, it has allowed me to acknowledge the value of growth through personal struggle. It's not like this is a new concept - apparently I just need to have things spelled out for me - repeatedly.