He comes into my office for a few minutes every morning. His name is Mr. Joe. He is our eighty-seven year old custodian at church. He always asks me, “How’s it going today, Pastor?” He also asks about my children and after I answer he says, “That’s a fine boy you got and a sweet girl, too.” I’ve told Joe on several occasions that I hope I am in as good a shape as he is when I am sixty-seven, let alone eighty-seven. This morning when I said that, he said, “Pastor, every night when I go to bed I pray that I might wake up with love in my heart. Love for God. Love for Jesus. And love for everybody I meet that day.” I thought that was a pretty good prayer to say every night, not just for Joe, but all of us.
Meeting Joe is another one of those wonderful gifts of grace that has come my way after my life took a turn that I did not expect almost two years ago. When things happened the way they did with my marriage, it was nearly impossible for me to see any of the grace filled goodness of the life that was around me. But that has changed for me. I am rediscovering in many ways the wonder and beauty of this life.
Yet, even as I rediscover this sense of joy I realize that there are many people, for numerous reasons, who are at the place I was at. A dark place where joy seems to have vacated and even God seems absent. A place that when you are surrounded by people, you can still feel very much alone. Though I am at a different place now in my life, I still remember the dark, loneliness of that place. Which helps me to feel a deep sense of compassion for others who are there.
There are a variety of situations that can lead someone into that dark place. The loss of a relationship, a dream or a hope. The struggle many folks have as they live pay check to pay check. I think many of the refugees who are forced to leave their country and look for a new life, only to find themselves living in the tent cities that offer little to change the reality of their situation. Families whose lives are broken by the gun shots that claim too many lives in our own nation.
The church is to be a healing place for such folks. A place where tears can be shed, pain can be shared and ultimately hope restored. I don’t always know how to provide the care folks need. But I know that part of that care begins with Mr. Joe’s prayer – “Let me wake up with love in my heart tomorrow. Love for God. Love for Jesus. And love for everyone I meet.” Tonight that will be my prayer too.