Life Restored from the Brink

falling into a pit

“ Bless the Living One, O my soul,
and do not forget all Their benefits —

…who redeems your life from the Pit..”

  • Psalm 103

 

As I continue to reflect on Psalm 103’s fleshing out of who this I Am revealed to Moses is, and where we meet Them, I can’t help but think of how “Pit” is revealed in some translations: destruction, the grave, Sheol (the Hebrew word for the afterlife), hell.

The range of meanings has something for all of us, doesn’t it?

chaplain 1In my work as a chaplain, I often see people come to the brink of death, only to discover life again.  More often than you would expect while working with hospice chaplaincy, a field associated with those expected to only have a few months of life, I see people recover and return to many more years of deeply meaningful life.  Others, though they still have a short time of life ahead of them, discover how to live that time with deeper meaning.  They embrace their passions, their joys.  They take time for what matters. They speak their truth to those that matter, often for the first time.   They take time for love and to mend those things that are broken in their lives.

Much of my work as a chaplain is helping people reflect on their own lives, discovering what truly has value, so they can do just this change of life.

I would say, even among those few who do recover from conditions on hospice in which death is expected, the soul work they go through often leads them to take with them into their new lives this same awareness of what matters.

Such a transformation reminds me of a country music song, “Live Like You Were Dying”, by Tim Mcgraw:

 

He said

“I was in my early forties

With a lot of life before me

And a moment came that stopped me on a dime

I spent most of the next days

Looking at the x-rays

Talkin’ ’bout the options

And talkin’ ’bout sweet time”

I asked him

“When it sank in

That this might really be the real end

How’s it hit you

When you get that kind of news?

Man, what’d you do?”

 

He said

“I went skydiving

I went Rocky Mountain climbing

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

And I loved deeper

And I spoke sweeter

And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”

And he said

“Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying”

 

He said

“I was finally the husband

That most of the time I wasn’t

And I became a friend a friend would like to have

fishingAnd all of a sudden going fishin’

Wasn’t such an imposition

And I went three times that year I lost my dad

I finally read the Good Book, and I

Took a good, long, hard look

At what I’d do if I could do it all again

And then

 

I went skydiving

I went Rocky Mountain climbing

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

And I loved deeper

And I spoke sweeter

And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”

And he said

“Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying

Like tomorrow was a gift

And you’ve got eternity

To think about

What you’d do with it

What could you do with it

What did I do with it?

What would I do with it?

 

rocky-mountain-climb“Skydiving

I went Rocky mountain climbing

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu

And I loved deeper

And I spoke sweeter

And I watched an eagle as it was flying”

And he said

“Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying

To live like you were dying

To live like you were dying”

 

Yet being redeemed from the Pit, death, destruction, hell, is not just about escaping death nor learning to live, no longer ruled by fears or death.

harrowing of hellIt is also is about those things which enable us to be turned from paths of destruction.

I have a good and inspiring friend of mine who at one point hit rock bottom.  She and her partner fell into drugs, were hooked and looking for the next hit.  He relationships suffered.  Her health suffered.  Her life began to fell apart under the specter of drug addiction.

She ultimately ended up in a wonderful drug treatment program here in the town I live in North Carolina, one that is not religion but science based.   In that program, she got the support and skills training necessary to kick the habit that was wrecking her life.   No doubt friends and family helped her find her way there, and the people who worked in that program helped her too.  Ultimately that program helped not only get her off drugs but find the path to return to school, and now she is a counselor who works helping people find redemption from paths of life that are destructive.

Even though she is not herself religious, let alone identify like me as Christian, that process she went through is also what this Psalm describes.

I mention her example and talk about even what I see in my hospice work in not particularly religious terms for a reason: what the Psalmist describes as being available through this Living One, the great I Am of Moses, is not available only to religious people.  It is not just available to Christians or Jews.   And it can be experienced by people who do not pray at all or identify it with God.

chooselife greenWherever people discover the resources within themselves, others, and their world to find their way out of the Pit, be that pit the fear that keeps them from embracing life, the physical or emotional health issues that threaten to shorten their life or rob its quality, or (as in the case of my friend) are brought out of paths that can lead to destruction, this whole process is the working of the Living One revealed to Moses whom Christians see expressed in the life of Jesus and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in, with, under, and through all people and all living things.

God known as the Living One, found in the presence of life, wherever life breaks forth in the face of death, wholeness in the face of seeming destruction, is not pie in the sky religiosity.   This is recognizing God as that presence of life itself which, if we pay attention to, can guide our days into deeper more meaningful existence in each moment.  It is that presence all around us which, when we lean upon it, can give us strength and courage in each moment beyond our expectation.

To me such presence is beautifully pictured by the Peter Mayer song, “Holy Now”:

 

“When I was a boy, each week

On Sunday, we would go to church

And pay attention to the priest

 

“He would read the holy word

And consecrate the holy bread

And everyone would kneel and bow

Today the only difference is

Everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

 

“When I was in Sunday school

We would learn about the time

Moses split the sea in two

Jesus made the water wine

And I remember feeling sad

That miracles don t happen still

But now I can’t keep track

Cause everything s a miracle

Everything, Everything

Everything’s a miracle

 

“Wine from water is not so small

But an even better magic trick

Is that anything is here at all

So the challenging thing becomes

Not to look for miracles

But finding where there isn’t one

 

“When holy water was rare at best

It barely wet my fingertips

But now I have to hold my breath

Like I’m swimming in a sea of it

It used to be a world half there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

Cause everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

 

“Read a questioning child s face

And say it’s not a testament

That d be very hard to say

See another new morning come

And say it’s not a sacrament

I tell you that it can’t be done

 

“This morning, outside I stood

And saw a little red-winged bird

Shining like a burning bush

Singing like a scripture verse

It made me want to bow my head

I remember when church let out

How things have changed since then

Everything is holy now

It used to be a world half-there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

Cause everything is holy now”

 

What are your experiences of life breaking out on the brink of death, or discovering deliverance from paths of destruction?

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s