The challenge of writing from this context is that I have spent 40 years in pastoral ministry and two years driving for Lyft. On this six week sabbatical from Lyft driving, I am trying to honor the fact that my blog audience is a ‘non church’ gig. I have very much enjoyed the challenge of writing narratives to a wide ranging audience. However, when it comes Advent I can not resist. So I have made my semi-apology to those of you who have good reasons to avoid preachers… I get it. My experience is that the vast majority of the clergy I know, pour their lives into making a difference in the lives of people. There are, admittedly, clergy like Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell Jr., who, in my opinion, have literally sold their souls to the devil in lining up in support with a political regime that peddles lies like the Denver Broncos hand out turnovers. We currently are watching ‘Evangelicals’ in Alabama try to make a “Christian Argument” that it’s better to vote for a pedophile than a Democrat.
It is in the midst of that backdrop that I am here to declare ‘There is always hope’.
For the second time in four weeks I take you back 40 years to the Enid State School. Molly was one of most precocious young kids at ESS. She was paralyzed from the waist down. She was born with spina bifida. Clearly, she did not belong in an institution. She was very verbal and socially engaging. Her story was that she had been abandoned by her family because of the health issues related to an open spine, for which she needed daily medical care. Molly pretty much had a run of the campus. She was a ‘student chapel assistant’ and brought joy wherever she was.
In the spring of 1977 she got sick and was hospitalized, not for the first time. It was related to the issues with her spine. In times past she would bounce back quickly, but this time she was moved from the hospital unit at ESS to a local hospital in Enid. Given the potential gravity of her health, her social worker decided to try to contact her family. They were found and the family came immediately. I was asked to serve as an intermediary on the day of their reunion. It was a beautiful moment. Molly had spent her whole life creating an imaginary family. These folks were very real. A couple of days after the initial meeting her parents asked me to join them for a conversation. “We were told when Molly was born to pretend that she was never born. The State of Oklahoma took her and that was the last we ever saw of her”. They were with her every day for about two weeks. She began to slip away.
It was the morning of June 15th. I had just left another hospital where I witnessed the birth of my son, Matthew. I went to Molly’s room where it was apparent she had slipped into a coma. Going back to my office, I sat staring out the window trying to live in the tension between a new life and impending death. I had no answers. I heard the door open and I could tell by the sound it was a teenage boy nicknamed ‘Sparky’. He came by almost every day to ask about Molly. He had cerebral palsy and would get out of his wheel chair and crawl down the seven steps to my office. “Clank…shuffle…clank…shuffle”. He was very independent and would rather crawl than get help. I sat silently as he worked his way into my office.
He eventually got on the vinyl couch and in a huge effort he got out these words, “How is Molly”? All I could say was “She is not going to make it”. After some time he got out these words with a laborious effort, “There is always hope”.
Those words were etched in my pastor’s heart ♥️. I would hold on to them as my first marriage disintegrated, when my brother Don was killed, and countless other times. Hope is not a superficial wish. It is the assurance deep in my soul that love is real and has the capacity to overcome the current darkness.
Onward and Upward,