CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter
A young couple had adopted a baby, or so they thought. But after ten days, the social worker came to take the baby back because the birth mother had changed her mind. I spent the day not only with the couple but also talking with social workers and attorneys and another couple which had experienced a similar situation. I do not remember them.
A woman brought her two sons, one a high school drop-out and the other a college drop-out. Neither wanted to work and were mad at her because she didn’t want to support them. I do not remember them.
A woman asked me to tell her husband that she was leaving him because “He always gets violent at first when he doesn’t like something, but then he calms down some.” Better me than her seemed to be her reasoning. I do not remember them.
These incidents come from the 1962 pages in the hand-written [fountain pen] journal I kept, starting in high school. I wasn’t new at the preaching task in 1962. I had been pastoring churches since 1956, when I was nineteen. But 1961-1964 was an especially intense time. I was serving a full-time church, and going to seminary full-time, commuting two hours each way four days per week, and we had a new baby. We received 101 new members that year. It was a busy time. And I don’t remember any of it.
I don’t remember the agonized couple with the ripped-away baby, or the mother with the ne’er-do-well sons, or the violent forsaken husband. I don’t remember any of the similar situations that filled each day and each page. Oh, yes, one or another sounds a bit familiar as I read them, but that’s all.
There’s nothing wrong with my memory. In fact, I have a better memory than most. I can name almost all the people of that church, starting with my first day there, the moving truck still in the driveway, when Leon Look came to tell me 100 year old Ethel Pinkowski was dying and I needed to go see her. When I had not done so an hour later, Leon returned to remind me. I remember Leon.
I remember most of the folks in that church, and can name them, the ones who came to church every Sunday, who worked on committees, who reminded me of who I was and what my job required. But I don’t remember the problems. They came and went. It was just part of a pastor’s day, or week, and then they were replaced by someone else with another problem.
I don’t mean to diminish those folks by saying that they were just the forgetful problem of the day. It’s terrible to have a baby wrested away from you, to think that you have failed as a parent, to fear a violent husband. They were real people with real problems, problems that were going to last them a lifetime.
As the preacher, though, I could not tarry with them. More problems were coming. I had to deal with those problems, too.
I am glad that I remember the people better than I remember the problems.