Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Changed Life, A Changed Perspective

When you look death right in the eye, your perspective changes. --Kevin Haug

Well, perhaps I didn't coin the phrase, but I did a Google search and didn't find any attribution.  Let it stand for the time being. 

I said this a week ago today standing and visiting with one of my church members who just recently lost her husband to cancer.  Life has changed substantially for her--as it does for most everyone who loses a spouse.

For, you see, when people join together in family units, they take on roles.  They take on responsibilities.  A pattern develops as they go through life performing a sort of dance.  One may cook while the other cleans.  One may handle the discipline while the other handles the nurture and care.  One may handle the finances while the other handles upkeep and maintenance on the building.  One may handle the indoor chores while the other handles the outdoor stuff.  One may handle roughhousing with the kids while the other handles the delicate matters that arise with interpersonal relationships.  Most unconsciously ease into such roles, and the dance becomes seamless.  Oftentimes, folks don't even think about such matters.  They are just doing it, and it works.

The death of a spouse destroys all those roles and responsibilities.  Suddenly, one spouse is left to take care of all such matters.  Life changes, and it changes drastically.  And when you've walked your spouse through that dark valley and stood by his or her side when she draws that final breath, not only is your life going to change, so is your perspective about life.

Suddenly, things that once seemed major are minor.  Things that used to cause angst and worry are meaningless.  Listening to coworkers and friends gripe about not having anything to do on Friday evening or how someone is making rude comments on their Facebook wall become like nails on a chalkboard. 

"Really?" you ask yourself.  "Is this what consumes your thoughts?  Is this all you have to complain about in life?"

When you deal with life and death matters, such items become trivial...meaningless...a waste of mental energy.

There are more important things in life.  Unfortunately, death has a way of bringing those things to the front.

I've walked with more than a few folks through this process.  I've stood by the bedside of members who died.  I've looked death in the eye more than a few times.  Every time gives me pause.  Every time gives me an opportunity to rethink my own priorities.  Every time I commend someone's spirit to God, on the way home, I cannot wait to grab my children, hold them tight, hug my wife, and spend some time being a better husband and dad.  I worry less about politics and natural disasters and how the Dallas Cowboys are playing (yes, I am aware of the link between the last two of those items).  Such matters are out of my control.  Such matters will always be around.  Such matters really matter less when one considers they have little impact on one's life--at least compared to the impact one's family, friends, and relationship with God has on one's life.

Such matters become paramount.  All the rest fades away. 

Unfortunately, you have to look death in the face for this to happen.  I hate to see people whose lives are thrown into upheaval because of such a thing, but I rejoice when they hold onto hope; when their faith is made stronger; and when they receive a new perspective on life. 

When you look death in the face, it changes your perspective.

Hopefully, for the better.


Kathy said...

Have you ever had a Near Death Experience (NDE)? I have -- 2. It is then that you know for sure that Heaven, Hell and Purgatory exist.

On another subject -- did you read about the Church of England rejecting women bishops? I can't believe it. As a woman, I am furious. They are sooo liberal and permit women priests, but when it comes to promotion -- a glass ceiling!

This makes absolutely no sense, and reveals the lie, the big lie.

Kevin Haug said...

No, Kathy. No NDE's here, although I've known a few folks who have had them. Had the privilege of preaching at a woman's funeral where I began with the words, "This is not the first time C, has died." Then I told everyone the story she told me about dying in a car accident. She lived her life without fear of what would happen at death. She'd been there. It was a fabulous story of faith.

As to the Church of England. I disagree with their decision. I think women should be allowed to be bishops. Yet, I don't tend to get too riled up about things which are out of my control. I'll lose no sleep over the decision and work within my own frame of influence.

Kathy said...

Kevin -- Interesting comment: "work within my own frame of influence." Imagine what that means now! My "frame of influence" is the whole world -- and I am not a megalomaniac -- I just have internet connection!

When I typed the word "furious," I was using hyperbole -- I didn't mean it in the way it came out. I am, of course, 100% against women priests -- and, needless to say, lady bishops.

But back to influence: I just left a comment on Clint's blog -- he will read it, and no doubt, a few others. Some people may even read this comment.

The LL website has been down since Saturday. I am sure you have seen the ELCA Mission Support graph. We live in turbulent times -- also, I think, times of great opportunity. I do not hide the fact that I see an opportunity for Lutherans to return to the Catholic Church.

As I told Clint: Read, study, keep an open mind. The re-unification of the Church is going to happen. Will you be a part of it? I hope so.

Happy Thanksgiving -- and don't shoot too many deer. Remember, that deer may be somebody's mother.

Kathy said...

Now here is exactly what I mean. Below is a quote from David Lose -- one of the ELCA's top young thinkers. Look! The ELCA is just where the Catholic Church was in 1517! I am laughing my head off! Think, man, think!

"Yet we continue to practice ministry like they’ll come back if only our pastors figure out how to do what they’ve always done, only better. And that’s just the problem: our focus is on what the pastors do. In our current model of church, the pastors are the interpreters of Scripture. They are the ones who make connections between faith and life. And they are the ones comfortable talking about their faith.

What’s more – and to put it both more bluntly and more accurately – the pastors are typically the only ones who interpret Scripture, make connections, or talk about their faith. They are, in a very real sense, the professional Christians. And, oddly enough, we are at a point where I think the better our pastors performs these tasks the deeper the crisis gets, as after a riveting sermon the average lay person can only look on in admiration and acknowledge that he or she could never do that.

This way of thinking, if not medieval, is at least better suited to the church of the mid-twentieth century rather than the twenty-first century. So we need to shift from a “performative” model of ministry – where the mark of competence is that the professional does the central tasks of the faith well – to a “formative” model of ministry – where the mark of competence is that as time passes the congregation members get better themselves at the central skills of the faith, skills like interpreting Scripture, making connections between faith and life, and sharing their faith with others.

What does this mean for our practices? To be most truthful, I’m not yet sure. That’s part of the challenge of adaptive problems: they don’t simply require an answer but rather need to be lived into until an appropriate response suggests itself."