“A Bruised Reed He Shall not Break”

Who was I to blog about peace?  All the peace that I sought seemed to disappear on Friday as I learned that a good friend of mine (my first college voice teacher, an important mentor, and an all around inspiration) had a terrible car accident between Green Bay and Milwaukee and is now lying unconscious and on a breathing machine at the hospital.  “The whole world was at peace”?  Certainly not here, not in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  This situation has haunted me this weekend as I struggled to go about my business.  “And what about my blog post?  How can I think of anything else?”, I thought.  Thus, I’ve decided to share with you honestly my journey this weekend, hoping that it will be of some help to you and me.

Upon hearing the news on Friday, I asked my parents to pray with me and then I prayed with my boyfriend.  My contributions both times were not very elegant — I’m not so good at praying extemporaneously with others — but I needed to do something, anything.  Eventually, I had to sleep — the general busyness of the week and the emotions of the moment caught up with me and left me drained.

Yesterday, I turned to the readings for today for inspiration.  One of the advantages of being a member of both the MCC and Catholic churches is that I often get two sets of readings for Sunday.  Today’s first reading in the Revised Common Lectionary is Isaiah 43:1-7.  Verse 5 jumped out at me:

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (The Inclusive Bible)

This reading is obviously what David Haas used as a basis of “You Are Mine.”  Here’s the chorus:

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

Being a church choir nerd, I must have sung this a million times, many of those being funerals.  Thus, the song filled me with a mix of emotions.  It’s beautiful music.  And yet we often sing it when someone passes away.  It speaks of bringing someone home.  “Oh dear Lord, are you going to bring my friend home?”

At Mass at my Catholic parish this morning, Fr. Tim unlocked for me the power in the first reading in the Roman Catholic lectionary.  In this reading, a chapter earlier in Isaiah, we find:

A bruised reed he will not break (42:3, NAB)

Fr. Tim used the image of a broken stem on a poinsettia, which instead of being chopped off and thrown out, is propped up with a stick and given the best chance at healing.  So my friend is lying in the hospital incredibly broken, and God, through the ministry of the doctors and nurses, is doing everything possible to heal this “bruised reed.”  Wow.

I don’t know what happens next, but it won’t be easy.  I’ve learned not to ask why; I still need to learn how to deal with the feeling of powerlessness.  I’m grateful for my virtual and physical communities that are willing to set aside religious differences and come together in prayer.

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church.  He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

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Just Get Over It

To regard grief as somehow unworthy of a Christian who believes in the resurrection is to forget the example of Christ who was so often “moved with compassion,” who wept at his loss of Lazarus and prayed the longer in his agony. We cannot short-circuit human processes”.

Maria Boudling, Prayer: Our Journey Home

I recently saw this quote when reading a chaplain’s reflection upon the death of his wife. He struggled to find words that would express what he was feeling, as much as we struggle to find words we think would be comforting to those grieving. He found some relief in the fact that his wife’s physical suffering was over however, as he says, “No amount of joy over Caryl’s betterment removes that cold reality [that I am now alone]”.

Too often we deny our feelings (or encourage others to deny theirs) because some feelings, let’s face it, just don’t feel good. Grief does not feel good. Seeing someone sad or angry does not feel good. I often hear people tell their loved ones they must stop crying or should be rejoicing for the dead because they are now with God. I imagine many of us would like to say what M’lynn says to Annelle in Steel Magnolias when her daughter died and Annelle suggested that she rejoice that her daughter was ‘with her King’, “Well you go on ahead. I’m sorry if I don’t feel like it.”

We also have those who are trying to embrace positive thinking and who emphasize one’s ability to affect their environment with their thoughts. Unfortunately this can have the same effect. When we deny our feelings we often misappropriate our emotions onto other issues where we ‘take it out on others’. Or we might bottle these feelings up and, in turn, find it very difficult to maintain/engage in close relationships where one has to be intimately in tune with themselves to do so with others.

My least favorite emotion is anger. Having seen it used and abused in my family, I avoid it like the plague. I feared that being angry was not a nice thing to do. I take being nice to the extreme so much that I even found a career where I can go around and be nice to people!

These things combined have made accessing my feelings of anger even harder. As Richard Gere said to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to say that sentence: “I was very angry with him.” I haven’t gotten to the $10,000 mark, but I am definitely dealing with feelings that won’t disappear no matter how much I try to hide them away. It may sound cliche, but we have to go through things to truly get over them. There is no short cut and there isn’t enough positive energy in the world to make those feelings go away if we haven’t first acknowledged them and dealt with them.

So, I take courage from Jesus, who turned over tables in the temple, and who wept bitterly in the garden. If he felt these feelings and was without sin, then they can’t be sinful for us to feel either (that is, depending on how we express them). Just another way that Jesus acted counter culturally. Just another way that he lights the way for us and, of all of the things a God could do, teaches us how to be human.