LIVING WITH A PILE OF CLAY

Dear good friends,

Ignacio Castuera, a long-time seminary friend, sent the following message to me on New Year’s Day:

“Buzz, 39 years ago my daughter, Marisa and I, attended your church in San Diego where you preached on the text from Luke 2 where Jesus was “lost and found’ in the Temple. You shared your anxious times at Disneyland where you lost four-year-old, Sonja, only to find her in the ‘lost parents room’ in the Magic Kingdom.

You proceeded in your sermon to share a concept in developmental psychology which stated that as parents we dare not believe we can control how our children perceive us, the best we could do was to be aware that we are constantly making impressions on our kids by falling on them as they were a pile of clay.”

I started my sermon back then with Mary, the mother of Jesus, walking alongside another mother. The companion, a super-mom type, turns to Mary and asks smugly “Have you hugged your kid today?” “Are you kidding,” Mary replies nervously, “he’s been missing for three days. I can’t even find him, let alone hug him!” And finally, Mary approaches the temple where she finds her twelve-year-old son. What might Mary say to Jesus after she had been frantically looking for him for such a long time? She has to be a little hysterical at the moment. The writer of Luke account has Mary saying, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you in great anxiety.” Keep in mind, Mary has looked for him for days. With all due respect to Luke I prefer to believe that before she asked that question she began with a few exclamations, out of fear and compassion. Mary and Joseph may have just stood there in a pile of clay for the first time.

I got Ignacio’s message while in a hospital room in Flagstaff. Sonja was having a hysterectomy. After her surgery, her blood pressure dropped extremely low. The doctor had to go back to deal with the internal bleeding and Sonja needed to stay in the hospital for several days. That’s when our family members in the room began to feel like we were just going deeper into that clay.

How much of a load of clay falls on the doctors and nurses in their work? Sonja’s surgeon felt badly to have to go back in again. The doctor said she had done hundreds of such surgeries and only two have had to be repeated. The doctor may have felt that clay pulling her down on that occasion.

All we could do was sit in her room, pray a lot, smile to her and maybe tell a few jokes that were not all that good. It was mostly dark in the room and that’s when we loved ones feel we are falling more into that pile of clay. We can’t do much about it but we can be fully present like never before in our lives in those moments.

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