You already know this. You and I sit with people in the middle of really hard moments. In moments when numbers and percentages and policies and rationales fall away and we feel the sobs in the person next to us. This person, this moment, this diagnosis, this death.
The response to “I’ve never had to deal with this” isn’t “You are not alone. 9,000 other people are saying that on this very day.” It may be, “You are not alone. I’m right here.” The response to “I don’t understand” is not three quick observations about God’s perfect plan.
There is often no explanation in the tears.
One day, last summer, for the first time I saw someone share this prayer:
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity
the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
I think it came in the middle of the accumulating loss I was seeing in our hospital, among my friends, in our world. It gave words to the ache in my heart. I know the mention came from some social media thread from Tish Harrison Warren. It’s part of a Compline service, an evening prayer service that has been part of the Church for millennia, though not part of my church.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll spend a little time giving you a review of Tish’s new book, Prayer in the Night, where she reflects on each of the phrases in this prayer. It’s a very helpful book for me as I think and pray and live through being present with other people in really hard moments.
But for today, simply, the prayer.