How many times have we watched the casket close?
How many times have our hearts nearly stopped beating because of the stillness of death?
We grieve out loud today.
The cameras are gone, now, though.
The horse-drawn carriage has come to a standstill.
We have now left him in his resting place,
And the departed has now begun his new journey.
And we are left standing.
Heavenly Father, please do not let this be another day that comes and goes.
Please don't let this simply be a beautiful funeral program put on display, only to be hidden in between the pages of a shelved book.
Down through the years, the casket has closed on so many others.
But there were no cameras.
Their caskets were sealed to the rhythm of weeping and wailing.
Lowered silently into the ground, the departed took their places in fresh graves dug next to ancestors of their own who were slaughtered in the name of hate.
And their story, seemingly, ended there.
They say this time is different, God.
Lord, have mercy on our souls because we've placed this man in a golden box
We've got t-shirts and hashtags
We've even got media coverage.
We've got allies, now God.
There are words--promises-- to make this seem like it won't be in vain.
And Dear, Lord, I want to believe.
We're crying, but we're marching.
We are weary, but we're moving.
Our hearts are heavy, but we are pushing on.
The names of those lowered, silently, into the earth are now lifted by the unity of our voices.
The energy of those murdered at the hands of injustice, surrounds us.
The notes of the hymns sung throughout the ages allows our ancestors to see this moment through our eyes.
They've been resting; waiting
for this day
for this hour.
for this minute.
for this moment.
May the "God of our weary years..." and "silent tears" meet us here.
Right where we all stand.
You're right where you need to be.
You may have failed, but you're not a failure.
You may be crying, but you are not weak.
You may be alone, but you are still standing.
Your dream may be fading, but you're not done yet.
Your cup may be nearly empty, but you've still got something left.
It may seem as if you are lost, but the light that shines within illuminates your path.
This is just a stop.
Catch your breath.
I grew up in a baptist church--a missionary baptist black church to be exact. Thanks to the fact that my grandfather was the pastor, I became a church musician around the age of four. On Sundays, more often than not, we sang the song What a Friend We Have in Jesus--a song that originally was penned as a poem by a preacher. The words were later set to the tune sung around the globe today. As a worship leader, one part that stands out to me reads:
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
Joseph Scriven, the preacher behind these words, ironically perished during a personal period of discouragement, depression, and despair. After a series of tragic events, as the story goes, he was found to have drowned. To this date, no one can be certain if the drowning was by accident or by suicide. Either way, what we do know is that Rev. Joseph Scriven--a man in a position to give others spiritual leadership and guidance-- was in the midst of his own trials and troubles. And in spite of the words he shared to encourage others, he became discouraged.
Leadership can be tricky; in my journey, I oft hear the phrase, "Leadership is a lonely road." The truth, however, for me at least, is that leadership is not in the least bit lonely--there are lots of people who will show up on your journey along the way. The challenge, however, is that many just show up to make noise. Some show up to claim a front row seat just for the opportunity to watch you possibly fail. Others show up, and pretend to be helpful all the while waiting for you to come to them to ask the "right questions." All of this to keep pertinent and helpful information under lock and key as you embark on a hamster wheel of trying to figure things out on your own.
The interesting part about leadership is that many times, a leader's "humanness" is forgotten. In today's society, the leader--particularly the public servant--is expected to hold machine-like tendencies that allow neither mistake nor weariness. Rev. Scriven, for example, was a minister who faced the tragic death of a loved one more than once. Although we cannot be certain of the actions of those around him, we can assume that despite his religion, faith, and position, Scriven's discouragement was powerful force. While there was a presence of people around in him (as evidenced by the friend who gave testimony of having left Scriven in his room "not to sleep, but to watch and wait," prior to his demise), there was an absence of peace (the one that passes all understanding as cited in Biblical text in Phillipians 4:7) and there was personal pain.
In his now, widely-sung hymn, Rev. Scriven suggested taking "everything to God in prayer" to inherit peace. Some would argue that prayer, by definition, is just a verbal expression of hopes and desires. Others, however, rely on their James 2:14-26 recognition that of the sentiment that faith (arguably, through expression of prayer) without works is dead. For the leader, Scriven's suggestion of prayer paired with James' assertions of putting work with the prayers , for the faith-filled leader simply means that we must be open to sharing our struggles, challenges, and fear in safe spaces. For this to happen, we must diligently create that space--carefully leaning on God's guidance to determine who belongs there.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
So what does this mean for you?
Nope, I'm not going to wrap up this written piece with a pretty conclusion bow, because that, in my opinion, does nothing for the person who has recognized this message is specifically for them.
Write your own conclusion here. What "work" do you need to pair with your faith and prayers to make certain that you do not forfeit peace or bear needless pain? Who will you allow into your space as you unpack and work through the challenges, trials, and temptations?
Don't keep pouring from an empty cup. Take time to do what it takes to keep yours filled.
You've got this.