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Life Matters, March 10

The directories of life

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Contributing writer

I was averaging 3-4 funerals a page in the dated church directories, loaned to me by a friend who loves our church’s history.

“There’s one, and there’s another,” I commented to Lori.  “I remember him, and her, too — that sweet couple. I officiated his funeral, then hers,” I periodically observed as Lori and I thumbed through the worn directories.

Most of the ones I had “buried,” were people who died in their later years; occasionally, there was the tragic one, the unexpected death, “prematurely timed,” you could say.

Those are the ones that made me winch.

“It’s no wonder a pastor thinks so often of death and dying,” I reflected aloud.

I recalled a death from another place, one for whose funeral I didn’t preside, although the family was close to me at the time. I stayed nearby, especially as they tried to find more of the daughter’s sudden and seemingly mysterious passing.

She was a single young lady with a promising career in a large city, a thousand miles away from home. Her parents couldn’t connect with her one day. They finally reached someone who knew someone who could check on her. It was a nightmare.

The memory of their ordeal interrupts my world, now, from time to time, although back then, my children were still little ones, at home in bed by 8 p.m. The fears I had for them didn’t include trying to find someone who might know someone who might know the whereabouts of my sons or daughters.

“Why won’t she return our calls? Is she missing?” 

“Did he just forget to tell us where he is? Is his cell phone dead? Has something horrible happened?”

Now, I’m not one who has to know when each grown child is safely tucked in bed each night. I would need a security advisor to keep up with that. But, I also admit, there are times, especially when I’ve not heard from them in a day or so, when I want to know, “Where are you? Everything OK?”

Texting is both a help and a hindrance. It is a wonderful servant but can be a horrible master, taking over your life. Not only can it steal the present moment, it can enmesh me in my loved ones’ lives:  they don’t want me knowing what they are doing at all times, and the truth is, I don’t always want to know what they are doing, either.

But at times, I thank the Lord for the instant knowledge text messaging brings.

“Are you OK?” I texted my New York City daughter, late one Friday night, when I had one of those premonitions to check.

“Yes, in a cab,” she texted back.

“A safe cab?” I pressed.

“This is my cab, Omg,” she wrote, including a picture of the cab’s license in the text. 

“OK, OK,” I thought, “know when to quit,” my words echoing the advice I had frequently given my own kids.

The best antidote to fear for our loved ones is trust in the Lord, but within that trust, there is a swath of curiosity wherein dwells the desire to know where, and when, and how.

“Where are you?”

 “When will you be home safe?”

 “How will I know?”

In that murky space between trusting God for what we don’t know and knowing as much as we should know about the where’s and when’s and how’s, we do at last have to exhale and release it, or we fall victim to a lack of faith that descends into worry.

Our faith is in the God of all goodness whose promises are oftentimes fulfilled in the pages of the unknown, uncertain directories of life.

“Look at all the young faces,” I smiled at Lori as we perused the newest church directory. 

“I did their baby dedication, and theirs too.”

“And remember when you baptized him, and her?” Lori added.

Turn the page of life’s pictorial directories: there’s always a spot for good news and a space for hope.