Our trip to Mexico was the best vacation I have ever had in my life. It was a wonderful celebration of our 40 years of married life. Our days were filled with sunshine, swimming in a beautiful pool, dinners by the ocean and spectacular sunsets. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
We landed back in Grand Rapids around midnight on Friday May 12th. The next morning we received a phone call from the hospital in Lansing where Robin’s sister had been taken a couple days before and by around 4:30 that afternoon we were sitting at Erin’s beside as she made the decision to move from actively fighting the massive infection that had developed in her body to palliative care. Monday morning we received word that Erin had died in the night.
As I reflect on the emotional roller coaster these days brought for me and even more to Robin, it took me to a scene that takes place in many of our congregations every Sunday. I’m thinking about those minutes we spend offering up to God our “joys and sorrows.” If ever we had a week that held both significant joy and deep sorrows it was that week.
But as I think of this personal whiplash for us, I am reminded that in the body of Christ this is always our state. There are always those who are celebrating events, milestones, the good things of life. There are those every Sunday morning who are experiencing joy. And there are those in the Body of Christ who are at the other end of the spectrum. They are dwelling in grief, they have lost jobs, they are struggling with health or loss of hope.
Roman 12:15 calls us as the Church to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” This is not an easy thing to do. When we are rejoicing, things are going well, when we are on vacation and celebrating it’s hard to engage those who are struggling. They are, to put it in a modern vernacular, a buzz kill! They bring us down. Likewise when we are struggling, when we are hurting it is hard to celebrate the good news and joy of those on top. Our tendency is instead to become at least a little bit jealous. We avoid those folks because we are just not able to connect with their joy.
But Paul is calling us in Romans 12 to be the Church. And that means, as it always does, that it’s not just about us. So, when we are mourning, we can and should mourn. We can and should allow ourselves to grieve and live in our struggle never feeling guilty because we are where we are. But we can also genuinely celebrate the rejoicing others are experiencing because we love them and we are authentically grateful for the good that is happening in their life. Similarly, when we are rejoicing we can pause in our personal revelry to offer real compassion to those around us who are hurting. We can, in fact, enter in to their mourning that we might offer them the grace of God in the midst of their pain.
I am grateful for all the offers of prayer, the cards and other expressions of love offered to our family in this past week. You have mourned with us and we are truly grateful.