July 2020 — pg. 33
There’s an unspeakable mix of emotions that fill a
room like incense as someone is about to pass through
the gateway of death into eternity. May I be honest for a
moment? In my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve never found
it easy or comfortable to be present in those moments.
Not knowing what to say, fear of speaking platitudes into
someone’s grief, or simply being in the way of deeply
personal family moments are not easy for me to navigate.
But I have — several times.
One late night I found myself at the hospital with a
family in this very situation. Their mom/wife was about to
die, and the family was not equipped to deal with it. I was
standing in the hospital room experiencing every awkward
feeling described above, when one of the nurses came in
and asked me a question. “You’re the pastor; aren’t you?”
I’m sure I couldn’t hide the surprised and confused look on
my face as I responded, “I am, but how did you know?” “I
can tell. I can always tell who the pastor is,” she replied with
the kind of look that leaves you wondering how someone
could learn of such inside information.
My personal feelings of awkwardness couldn’t hide the
presence of God in me at that moment, and, not only me,
but many other pastors who had been in that same place of
ministry. Part of being a stranger in the world is learning
that we can exude a distinct Christlike aroma even when
we feel entirely inadequate. Paul described this mystery to
the Colossians this way: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”
(Colossians 1:27b). The presence of Christ in me – in you –
reveals the glory of God to the world. Here’s the good news.
This dynamic isn’t just for pastors, but for all who will open
themselves to the work of the Lord in their life.
Presently, the world could use hope that only the glory
of God can give. Remember, the coronavirus pandemic
is still a reality, and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and
George Floyd are still raw, gaping wounds in our society
that have given way to national protests. Perhaps we’re all
feeling a bit like I do when I awkwardly stand in a hospital
room. So let me be blunt, when it comes to dealing with
the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, we
are dealing with an entire family of black Americans who
have had to live most of their lives in that “hospital room”
place. We should feel awkward at this moment and refuse
to deflect or speak cheap platitudes to the family who is
mourning and grieving.
Instead of acting like the world, we should be strangers
in the world. Because of Christ in us, the people of God, we
can be assured that His presence is with us. Many of us feel
like we’re left to our own devices to figure out everything
that’s wrong with the world, but we’re not alone!
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This is not an
excuse to hide. Quite the contrary, we need to be present
in the places where conversations are happening around
race, disease and despair. We need to be spending more
time in the private prayer closet so we’re prepared for the
public arena. The transformation that is imparted to you in
the prayer closet will be the aroma you exude in the public
The world needs us to be the “strangers.” Paul speaks of
not conforming to ways of the world but being transformed
by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Be set apart as
holy unto the Lord.+