Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
- Jeremiah 17:7-8
There’s an invaluable rule for offering pastoral care to anyone experiencing trauma, which means everybody in Hudson County at the moment: “Don’t unpack any bags that you won’t be able to re-pack when the conversation is over.” Over the decades I can’t count the number of times this rule has stopped me from falling off a pastoral cliff and lately, because I’ve been using it so often, I’ve been trying remember who said it.
Was it that ancient psychiatrist from the Mental Health Association of New Jersey who offered a session for people in caring professions after September 11th? Was it Unit I or II of that Clinical Pastoral Care class at seminary? Nope. During morning prayer on Monday the face of the person who gave me that advice surfaced. It was Maureen, a single mother in her thirties without a GED or any steady employment that would help her grab ahold of the better life she wanted for her daughters. She knew pain, she knew people and knew, as a novice helper, I was in need of a ballast. All these years later, even in this storm, long after I stood in a circle with her grown daughters, family and friends and spilled earth and offered prayers at her grave, Maureen is keeping me afloat.
After watching a DIY video about how to make compost I decided it was worth a try. Since throwing some leaves from last November and dirt into a plastic container I’ve been adding eggshells, onion skins and coffee grounds into the bin and turning the contents. Somehow these scraps are going to turn into rich soil out of which new life can come.
John’s Gospel says that before the Big Bang, before the Spirit hovered over the waters, before there was light in the darkness, there was a Word and that Word gave life to everything that is.
Deep in your roots, what wisdom is buried inside of you that is feeding you during this time of crisis? Is there some anonymous soil from which you have found good things still grow even in the quarantine- the scraps from an old conversation with someone who may not have known that they would be a ballast for you all your life and especially now?
Those words, spoken by a friend or a cousin or even someone you thought you were helping who was also helping you, are words of life. They come from the first Word that ever was. They are an answer to your prayers that lives inside of you before your prayers are spoken.