“I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).
For many years, the men of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church have been meeting monthly. The “men’s meeting,” as it has come to be known, was for the purpose of deciding the ways and means of accomplishing various projects in and for the church. While that was the stated purpose of the meeting much more than that was accomplished. When I first began attending, the men who were there were veterans of the second World War and the Korean War. After the agenda of the church projects was over, the conversation often turned to the experiences these men shared during their war years. The time of these conflicts began in 1941 and continued until 1953. It was during these conversations that they revealed much about themselves. Some had grown up during the Great Depression. Yet it was not the deprivations they talked about. To say they were difficult times would be a serious understatement. Yet it was not the hard times that occupied their conversation. Their conversations let one another know they were grateful for their survival and the life lessons learned during those years.
The women of St. Matthew’s organized their church work around specific tasks. The groups were called “guilds.” There were guilds to take care of the preparations for worship, preparations for social events, cleaning of the church, etc. Each guild had the authority to give special projects to the “men’s meeting.” Overheard in one of the guild meetings was the comment: “I never really grew up until my Mother died.” The silence that followed that comment spoke volumes. Losing your mother was a moment of crisis they all could relate to. The point was not the loss so much as the potential that loss pointed them to. Being left alone without the care and nurture of someone as significant to our comfort as our mother causes us to move forward with our lives in ways that we have not considered before.
For us to seek our own comfort is as inevitable as gravity itself. We all need enough to eat. We all need shelter and safety. We all need to be healthy and free from pain. When these things are threatened we actively seek ways to answer the need. It is not until we feel the pain and fear that comes from deprivation and loss that we move forward. On reflection, one may wonder if pain is not a better friend to us than our comfort.
In the midst of a pandemic, economic and political turmoil, social upheaval over race and gender, I wonder how we will respond. It seems that each generation must experience the pain that can shake us out of complacency and move us toward positive change.
Many of us in Oregon are getting our ballots in the mail this week. As we vote, we will express our cares and concerns. It is important that we vote. Our cares and concerns are important. However, let us be realistic about our expectations. Even if the elections come out the way you or I vote it will probably not bring about the change we seek. It is our divisions that are causing our pain. As I stand on my watchpost, I will be keeping watch to see what God will say and I will pray that we will be so empowered by his grace that we will heal our divisions.