When Church Is A House Of Pain

The title to this blog post sounds mighty negative. I get that. However, my goal in sharing what you are about to read is that it not be another post bashing the bride of Christ.

To the contrary.

I love the church and have much I owe her. I have not always gotten along with her well–there have been many days when she frustrated or made me angry.

But when you are dealing with mistake prone people–family and friends even who are as damaged by sin as the next guy (the next guy being me), you’re going to find flaws. And where you have flawed people, you will find pain–self-inflicted as well as inflicted by others.

As Uncle Si would say, that’s a fact, Jack!

I have written before about the pain and anguish felt as the result of people who didn’t handle the hurts and disappointments of others very well. Especially those who are struggling with death and loss.

Obviously, everybody’s story is different. But for most, the initial days, weeks, and months after the funeral is over are just the beginning of new adjustments, new levels of anguish, and trying to rebuild. Frankly for me, the second year was harder than the first. I don’t know why, it just was.

To illustrate how it works for some, read what Pam McCutcheon says about the aftermath of losing her son….

“I have a confession.  Please don’t judge me.  I haven’t attended a church service for over three years.  My relationship with God is strong and my faith is not in jeopardy.  But church is a house of pain, on many levels, since Max was killed.

First and foremost, my grief lives deep down in my soul.  A vulnerable place.  That same place in my soul that I tap in to when I worship God.  The tears naturally come.  And I refuse to “play” church and keep a happy face on.  I bawl when praise music starts.  God is fully worthy of my praise.  But (He already knows this, it’s well discussed territory), I am mad at Him for the decision to take Max to heaven at 18. I cannot sing about the faithfulness of God when I know very well I feel like He betrayed my trust.  I cannot sing about His goodness, even though I know and believe He is good.  Not in public.  I know others cry in church.  But I don’t have a ‘pretty’ cry.  My face gets red, I am vocal, and I melt down.  I’m a spectacle and truly, I don’t want people gawking at me when I’m that exposed.  It was much easier for me to sing “I Surrender All” when it didn’t require me surrendering my oldest child to death

Secondly, I have been betrayed by those who genuinely love and follow Jesus.  Some do not know how to minister to grieving people.  Some can only do it for a short while. I’m not talking about those people, although they have hurt me because I truly needed them and they weren’t there.  No.  I’m talking about the horrible things said “in the name of Christ”, or “telling the truth in love”, both phrases thrown around with too many cliches that have no meaning or power in my grief.  I am not going to get too specific because I hope to mend those fences someday, even if I have to wait until I reach eternity for unity again.  The self-righteous, smug, advice-givers inflict the most damage.  And they are not the reason I stay away from church.  But they certainly contribute to the church being a house of pain.  I do not doubt that they love Jesus, but they surely don’t reflect His heart for grieving people.

Do you know what Jesus did when He came upon the sisters of Lazarus right after he had died?  The sisters were angry with Him, yelling, they told Him that if He had been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died!  Did Jesus say “but he is in heaven, a better place”?  Did Jesus say “you might damage your witness by grieving so outwardly”?  Did Jesus say “here is some Scripture”?  NO.  Jesus simply WEPT.  He wept with them.  He was deeply moved and He wept.  Even though He knew He was going to resurrect him that very day.   He wept out of love.  (John chapter 11)  I pray more would use His example and not say damaging things, but simply weep with those who weep.
The man who asked me to write a blog on this topic has this to say in HIS blog – ‘I discovered that theological arguments, debates, and discussions matter little to people living on the jagged edge of holding it together or losing it entirely. And, I discovered that more “church members” are in that category of folks than we could possibly imagine.’ 

And finally, if you (as a church) are looking for people to minister to, please humbly accept my suggestion to start with your own congregation.  There is plenty of pain in your own back yard.  Talking of grand mission trips are fine, but only if you are taking care of your own too.  Know someone in pain in your congregation but don’t know how to help?  Take a meal, send a note of encouragement, organize a group to come over and surprise with a cleaning crew or a day working in their yard, take the kids out for an afternoon so the parents can be alone for a few hours, call them for lunch, meet them for a walk, ask questions that allow them to talk about their pain rather than avoiding them.  The gestures don’t have to be big, but they need to be ongoing beyond the first days of crisis.  People in pain look around at the others in church and beg to be helped, yet it seems easier not to get involved or bring “it” up.  Please do.  Get involved, bring it up, JUST DO IT.  Otherwise, your personal church is a house of pain.

I will attend church again.  I want a place to belong and feel loved again, a place that I can contribute my gifts and talents to.  But not yet.  Just not yet.”

Yes.

Even though everyone does not have the same grieving experiences, those are hard words to read.

And, in an effort to help the church be what she should, may I humbly suggest… We can do better.
We can.

Part of my mission in life is to help those who hurt and those who might minister to us.

Here’s the second rule to follow: when striving to help the hurting, patience is the key, along with lots of mercy, grace, and compassion.

And the first rule is even more simple: use hugs and actions. Words just muddle it all up!

God bless us all.

Please remember my in-laws in prayer… Joan Brown is very sick and Bob is keeping a bedside vigil. They have experienced so much loss…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

In my earliest days as a beginning theologian, I understood well my conservative upbringing. I knew intimately the points and counterpoints of some pretty intense theological debates.

I was well versed in the different papers and publications put out by the differing and dueling editor-bishops. I knew what schools held to what doctrinal positions. I understood what would happen if I aligned myself to this camp or another.

There were theological giants walking among us and I was quite eager to hear everything they said.

For years I thrived in that atmosphere. I was a living sponge soaking up those doctrinal differences and arguments—reveling in my knowledge, honing my own ability to dissect, discourse, and write.

A large portion of my life involved doctrine, doctrinal analysis, debates, discussions, and like the proverb says, iron sharpening iron.

The little dictionary capability that resides within my word processor defines lockstep like this:

  • a way of marching with each person as close as possible to the one in front. 
  • close adherence to and emulation of another’s actions.

Yes, I was good at maintaining the right positions and attitudes—I could march and fit in—and I did.

I did at least until a pesky thing called ministry got in the way.

Ministry or the art of ministering into the lives of others was where I found myself more times than not. I could only retreat into my study and the scholarship of which I love for so long before real life had to be challenged.

Ministry meant interacting in the messy lives of others—and confronting my own messiness in the process.

Along the way, a funny thing happened (here’s where I probably lose the next preaching job or opportunity). As I became intimately involved with the lives of hurting broken people—as I came alongside them with the brokenness and hurt of my own life, I found it harder and harder to maintain some of my positions.

Sometimes it was because my positions didn’t hold water in the practicality of living out my faith—at other times, I realized that in the grip of pain and struggle, I couldn’t often afford the luxury of smug self-assurance.

At this point in my life, I have apparently lost the ability to march in lockstep. Or maybe you might consider me a round peg in a square hole.

And it’s not that I am advocating for you to rethink your arguments or positions. I am not all that worried about knowing whose theology is more accurate, yours or mine.

But here’s the rub: things that were once so important have lost their impetus.

I have come to believe that in the context of theology—and in the context of how we live our lives, a lot of doctrine and theology—bad, misguided, or completely correct—is overshadowed by the two greatest commands: Love God & Love Others.

I desperately want to have a ministry again one day. But in the trauma and heartache of my life, I have come to realize that nothing matters more than how I love God by loving others.

Living out that ideology might just be the biggest and best ministry any of us can have.

Yes, I am not sure where I fit into the theological world today… and yes, I respect your beliefs and opinions. But…

I choose to remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Life Goes On?

Life goes on.

I don’t particularly like those words.

I have said them.
To others.
To myself.
I have said them lots and lots of times.

I know them to be true.
Short of a cataclysmic world ending life-as-we-know-it event or the second coming and the end of time, life goes on.

Life goes on.
The sun rises.
The sun sets.
Days and weeks go by.
Months pass.
Seasons change.
Life goes on.

Two years later, I am well aware of the simple fact that life goes on.

Yes, life goes on.
The sun rises.
The sun sets.
Days and weeks go by.
Months pass.
Seasons change.
Life goes on.

But what about when it doesn’t?
What about when it doesn’t?

What about when the phone rings and the worse news you could ever imagine is heard?
What about when the doctor delivers devastating words no one ever wants to hear?
What about that frozen moment in time in which everything near and dear is completely undone?

What about then?
What about then?

I have written about it before and do so here again. I will never ever get the image of the coroner coming to give me the worst news possible out of my mind. It is an exquisitely painful freeze frame seared into my consciousness.

I remember time slowing down.
I remember the chief-of-police talking–his voice sounded like he was underwater.
I remember this uncharacteristic and extremely loud roaring in my ears.
I remember seeing faces of people who were normally as familiar as the back of my hand–their looks of horror rendered them unrecognizable–although now, I can pick them out of the full color video loop that now plays unerringly.

What about then?
What about then?

Life goes on?
In moments like those, it feels as if life has ended.

I well remember being offended that others got to keep living their lives without the fundamental changes I was experiencing.

Yes, life goes on.
But if you are wondering, let me help you understand: hearing those words is hardly comforting.

Life goes on is actually a pretty fatalistic view of life.
It’s the kind of phrase that goes with a shrug of the shoulders and can sound as if devoid of all hope.
It’s a phrase that makes it seem as if what really matters somehow doesn’t.

To the ears of those for whom life has come to a shuddering stutter-step stop, life goes on lacks the compassion so desperately needed.

Be patient with us (whomever or wherever we might be).
Hopefully we’ll get there one day…

Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Promise of a Coming Day

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
Psalms 137:1-4

As irritating as TV commercials can be, there is one playing currently that cracks me up.
Literally, it has me laughing out loud. And sometimes even before the funny part–all in anticipation.

Maybe you’ve seen it.

It starts with animated characters drawn in what looks like pencil. The whole thing is set to the old A-Ha song, Take On Me (and uses the original music video as its inspiration). Suddenly, the whole scene changes to a board room type situation where we realize the drawings have been made by a guy doodling as the meeting progresses… only to realize he is singing. Loud. In the middle of the meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bbRVMua0HUc

Can you say embarrassment?
I love it!

For about a week now I have been humming, whistling, and singing one particular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash…

I whistle a bar here, sing a line there. And like the guy in the commercial, suddenly realize I am humming out loud.

I love their music. They have multiple songs on their playlist that I really enjoy.

But my favorite song was a dream that one day came true.

During my stint in the US Navy, I travelled all over the world.
Saw some great places.
Met different and intriguing cultures.
My favorite country to visit? Chile.

It was on the way to Chile, as we sailed and showed the Flag around the entire continent of South America, that I finally saw what I had only envisioned in my mind before.

The Southern Cross.
The constellation ancient mariners navigated by in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, I once longed to see those stars aligned in the nighttime sky. Thanks to the US Navy (and Becki), I have. (The Becki part? That’s a story for another day.)

I’d like to see the constellation again someday, but in the meantime? I sing, whistle, and hum…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

The song itself is about loss.
It’s about escape.
It’s about a new life even as one moves forward from and within the remnants of the old.
Most importantly, its about the promise of a coming day.

In other words, hope!

Hope!

Today may be painful.
Tomorrow may be worse.
And next week or even next year?
Yes, there will be times of continued pain and difficulty or the onset of brand new hurts not even imagined as of yet. And it may feel as if you are living in a foreign land…

Turns out, there isn’t a shelf life or expiration date for the pain life often has to offer.
Like losing a child… it will always be there, always sting, and always ache. Like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, it never quite goes away.

It is what it is.

But even in the pain.
Even in the uncertainty.
Even in the questioning and wondering of why you came this way…
There is always the promise of a coming day.

Hope!

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

In Jesus, there will be a new day!

Hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Hope… Even In Our Pain

image

Kyle is my oldest son. I am proud, so very proud of the man he is. There was a period of my life in which I unlearned/learned/relearned much of my current theology from him.

He taught me grace in meaning and action. He helped me see the salvation offered by God in a much broader fashion than my self-imposed and narrow ideology had ever allowed before.

He may be young at 27 years old, but I would sit at his feet any day.
Any day.

His wise words below offer hope. A hope we have to make sense of an often senseless world.

On the two year anniversary of the day that ripped our family asunder, I hope you can appreciate what he says…

image

This is a picture that I have shared with friends before. However, after two years, this picture is the best way for me to describe what life looks like since that day in October 2011. Just days after the death of my mom and my brother, we found my mom’s bible. On its pages were several notes that she had recently written, notes that pointed toward hope in the midst of the chaos she and my dad had been facing in her and Cole’s last few months. This picture comes from one of those pages. On it is a simple phrase that has encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other each day.

“God is at work, even in our pain!”

I remember when my dad called me out into the garage, telling me to come look at what he had found. When I looked in her bible and saw these words it felt as though God had allowed my mom to reach back into this world to tell me something essential, something I needed to know. Of course I wept. But this phrase has honestly helped me keep living.

It might be easy to read this phrase quickly, feeling and thinking nothing more than that which is felt or thought at the reading of any trite, pious, bumper-sticker style religious platitude. But to me, this means far more than that. This phrase encompasses something that I needed so desperately two years ago. Really, it encompasses something each of us needs at any given moment of our often pain-filled experiences on this earth—Hope in the apparent absence of hope.

Joseph was betrayed by his family and sold into slavery, alone in a distant country…

Israel spent 420 years in slavery, many born into and dying without a single day in freedom…

Job, well, you know about Job…

And yet, God was at work in it all.

…Joseph was in a position to save most of the known world including his family line, the line of Israel, during terrible famine.

…the generations of Israel that came and went in complete slavery continued the line until their family would be set free from Egypt in an amazing display of God’s power.

…And Job, who had only heard of God with his ears, saw God face to face, and was comforted, teaching generations of believers how to wrestle faithfully with God.

This does not make their struggle any easier. It does not take away the pain. However, just maybe, it gives meaning to their pain. The message of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is that even the darkest pain can serve a valuable mission, even death is not too broken to be redeemed by God.

I don’t believe that our pain is always God’s doing or “part of God’s plan” as the cliché goes, though it can be (think of Israel taken into exile or Job’s story). I believe sometimes things are the result of the Enemy, the result of the decisions of man, or even simply the result of climate, chemistry, biology, and physics—just the way the world works. But if we are honest with our faith, we must at least acknowledge that the all powerful God doesn’t always stop our pain from happening—and couldn’t He? It is in those moments that all I have in my heart that works is, “God is at work, even in our pain.” There is more to everything than I can see.

In those cases, all I can do is relate to God in a way much like Job in Job 19. He repeatedly points the finger directly at God with no hesitation, saying to the Divine in more or less words, “You did this!”

“Know then that God has wronged me…” (19:6)

“He has put darkness on my paths…” (19:8)

“And He has uprooted my hope like a tree…” (19:10)

“He has also kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy…” (19:11)

“For the hand of God has struck me…” (19:21)

And yet in the very same chapter, he acknowledges that though these things have happened to him, and that the God who he thought would protect him did not, that same God is worthy of trust for He is the only real source of hope in this world–He is the redeemer of pain. Whatever is causing the present crisis, God will overcome it all on our behalf in the end:

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Kyle Ferguson

 

Two

October 10, 2013.
Not today.
But Thursday.
This Thursday.
Not tomorrow.
Not Wednesday.
Thursday.

It’s coming quickly.
More quickly than we want.
We would like to fast forward past it.
Better yet, skipping it completely seems like a splendid idea.

But no matter how badly we want to avoid it, it’s coming like gangbusters and will continue to do so until time is no more.

With everyday of every calendar.
With every new moon of every month.
With every change of every season, it comes around again and again.

For most folks, October 10th is just another fall day.
The sun will rise.
The day will run it’s course.
And a new day will take its place.

This year it is on a Thursday.
A prelude to a three day weekend.
The boys have various things planned or hoped for.
We need to get in another load of firewood.
Life goes on.

This October 10th means two years.

Two.

Two years.
Two long years.
Two short years.
Two heartbreaking years.
Two years of pain.

Two.

Two years.
Two years of happiness.
Two years of joy.
Two years we could not have ever imagined.

Two years of new life and living.
Two years of new experiences.
Two years of new relationships.
Two years of new challenges.
Two years of new adventures.

Two.

Two years of struggle.
Two years of triumph.

Two.

Two years of wondrous healing.
Two years of still desperately needing to be healed.

Two.

Two years seems like an achingly long time with more to come.
Two years is an eternity.

Two years have passed in an incredible blur.
Two years gone and it seems like the past was a dream life barely remembered.

Two.

Such a paradox.
Such is life.

Two years ago this coming Thursday, October 10, 2011, one life ended and another began.

What do you do with an anniversary like this?
What do you do with a yearly reminder of the most hurtful, pain-filled day in your life and the life of your children?

Two years and an ocean-full of tears.
Two years and a heavy heart.
Two years…

This Thursday we remember.
Not that we ever forget.
But this Thursday we remember.

We remember, honor, and give thanks.
We give thanks for the lives we lived and those we lost.
We give thanks for the new lives we live and the new love we’ve found.

And we endeavor.
We endeavor to live life fully.
We endeavor to embrace every day.
We endeavor to face the future while never forgetting the past.

Two.

We remember.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Extravagant

I used to have a really bad temper.

Flying off the handle.
Getting mad.
Harsh words.
A willingness to fight.

There have been times in my life when those things could have been and were an apt description.
Not always, but definitely some.

I have never been proud of my hot-headed tendencies. I have often fought and won against them.

But not always.
Unfortunately, the ones I love have more often either been in the crosshairs or innocent bystanders with collateral damage.
Either way it hurts.

I am not going to tell you that my temper is no more.
As soon as I did, some situation would arise to put the lie to my words.

But, I have matured.
I have changed.
My volatility is nothing like it was in the past.
These days I am learning the art of asking myself an all important question: Does this really matter enough to lose my cool?

Still, there is room to grow.
Not losing my temper needs to become having greater patience.
Being more tolerant. 
Exhibiting mercy.
Being a conduit of grace.

I am so glad God is still working in me…

Having said all of that, I still struggle with anger.
I still wrestle with resentment.
I still want answers.
I still get mad at God.

Still.
Get.
Mad.
At.
God.

And yet.
And yet…

I am glad He loves me enough to be patient.
I am glad His tolerance is much better than mine.
I am thankful for His mercy.
I am gratified by His grace.

I am learning to live with the non-answers.
I am learning to trust God’s love even when I cannot comprehend.
I am learning how to still worship… even when the oceans rise and thunders roar. (Still by Hillsong United)

I wish I was the only one with unanswered questions.
I wish I was the only with with anger.
I wish I was the only who has ever been mad at God.

But I am not.
These days I too often meet fellow travelers.
Or, hear of those who have joined this fraternity of pain, doubt, and questions.

I wish I had the answers we both want.
I wish.
How I wish I did.

But some answers are never to be.
And in truth, we both know that the answers will never undo the pain or repair the damage.

But, from my perspective almost two years out from the horror of October 10, 2011, I’d like to share with you a passage of scripture that gives me comfort, hope, and a little bit of peace.

Still.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13, (The Message)

In your pain, with your doubt, and in spite of your unanswered questions, do your best to love.
Love extravagantly.

In the act of loving, redemption and relief can often be found…

I am thankful for the love shown to me.
I am thankful for the blessing of loving you in return.

Extravagantly yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Huge Sucking Chest Wound

It’s really strange the things that catch me off guard and start the waterworks.

This past Saturday I was trying to find something in one of my dresser drawers that is a catch all. There is a lot of stuff in the drawer.

  • Hunting knife
  • Hunting gloves
  • Toboggan hat
  • Checkbook refills
  • Navy Medals/ Ribbons

You name it, I find it, and invariably, if it is somehow important to me, it gets stuck in that particular drawer… or it’s twin brother.

Yes, I have two of them.

At any rate, while searching for something I needed, I accidentally dropped/ dumped the entire drawer on the brick floor.

Casey rushed in to help me, and as he began to pick up stuff, he found a couple of pictures of Cole he had never seen before.

I don’t know for sure what set me off.

Maybe it was the strange look on Casey’s face and the questions I heard forming in his head…

Or, maybe it was the fact those specific pictures are stuck away because it just about kills me every time I see them…

Poor Casey. He’s standing there holding here before unseen pictures in his hand, and me? I am having a complete meltdown on the hard brick bedroom floor.

I am so grateful for good days and positive directions. I am thankful for old and new friends alike–for your encouragement, understanding (even when you haven’t a clue), and support.

But at the risk of using unpreacher-like language, sometimes there is nothing good that can be said… sometimes, life just sucks.

Years ago in the Navy, I went through rudimentary first aid. I remember learning about different ways to seal up or contain a sucking chest wound. Maybe they have fancier language for that these days, but I know what that means. I suspect you do too. If not, then google it here.

Turns out I am all too familiar with a huge sucking chest wound. Mine comes from having my heart periodically ripped out of my body. Grief does that. and sometimes when you least suspect it.

Days like Saturday are hard.

And they suck.

Big time.

Thanks for reading. God bless!

In the meantime, if you want to listen to my sermon at Meadowbrook from a couple of Sunday’s ago, you can do so here: Meadowbrook sermon–the trickster.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Defiance!

I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Every day.
At night too.

If you didn’t know me or my story, you’d have no idea.
I don’t park in the handicapped spaces.
I don’t limp (at least not physically).
I am not on any medication for pain or depression.
I don’t walk around with a perpetual frown on my face.

Tears are often my companion, but not every day. At least not where others can see them.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

And yet, I have an amazingly fulfilling marriage. Becki is a wonderful life partner. We work together. We play together. We enjoy life together. (We can actually thrive while canoeing together down the Buffalo River without nary a cross word–not many can say that!)

And together? Together we have four fantastic kids all living under one roof. Each of them is a complete joy all on their own. My oldest and his beautiful wife live in Huntsville, Al and are their own special blessing.

Everything in our lives is not perfect. Not by a long shot. We have our difficulties and struggles–like every family in this country. At the same time, we know joy, laughter, and fun.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Some days I can laugh and tell stories about the ones we lost. Other days, a glance at a picture or a foray into the basement (where two footlockers of Cole’s stuff are stored) is enough to open the floodgates of indescribable pain.

Most of the time I try to tell myself it wouldn’t hurt quite so bad if it didn’t involve such a horrific story. If it wasn’t about rape and murder. If it wasn’t about betrayal. If it didn’t feel so much like the complete absence or abandonment of God… Do those things magnify the pain? Do the specifics sometimes feel like a knife twisting in my side? Absolutely!

But who am I kidding?
Only myself.

The truth is quite simple.
Pain is pain.
Loss is loss.
Grief is grief.

The circumstances may not be the same; the backdrops of our hurt may span opposite ends of the spectrum, but the truth is not complicated at all.

Pain is pain.
Loss is loss.
Grief is grief.
And there is no valid reason to compare situations as if there was some kind of reward for hurting more than someone else.

Still, I hurt.
Every day.
Not every minute of every day.
But, I hurt.

Like so many others, I live each day with a pain that is immeasurable.
Yet, we are a determined group for the most part (thank you for allowing me to speak for you). We may (and do) have moments where grief is crippling, but we are determined nonetheless.

Determined to live.
Determined to know joy.
Determined to prosper.
Determined to experience life and share it with others.

Anything less is to curl up and die.

The grim reaper has it easy enough, and because of that, we are determined to give him as little satisfaction as possible.

Although life can be hard and is often exacerbated by the attitudes and actions of those who would presume to judge, in the end, we chose life.

That is our defiant answer!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Judging Fixing Helping Loving

The following was written earlier today for my first speaking opportunity tonight with a small group from Cross View Church…

But before you read, check out a brand new endorsement at http://www.lesfergusonjr.com/endorsements/

When People hurt…

I suspect you know at least some of my story.

  • It is graphic, horrific, shocking, disgusting… well, you can come up with your own words too.
  • It involved abuse, betrayal, drugs, rape, and four bullets–two murders execution style.
  • We will deal with the implications of what culminated on October 10, 2011 for the rest of our lives.

It’s not just the death of a wife, daughter, mother, and sister… It’s not just the death of a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.

  • Those things happened. And they are far worse than you can imagine.
  • The hardest part is not exactly dealing with the loss. Don’t get me wrong. The loss is hard. I feel it every day. Yesterday was my birthday. And nobody anywhere could have given me what I really truly wanted… to spend the day with my boy. To laugh and aggravate and tease…

Loss is hard. But living with the aftermath is hardest still.

  • The easiest thing to do would have been to check out… to end the pain.
  • The road forward is difficult. And for me, the ripples just don’t ever seem to end.

We lost emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally–those are things you expect.

But what do you do when the loss becomes so much more?

  • When your financial stability goes away?
  • When your health is affected?
  • When your credit is destroyed?
  • When your job and career are lost?
  • When you realize people don’t care as much about you as what you do for them?

Even worse, what do you do when your children are rewired by tragedy and you have no ability to undo the damage?

And finally, what do you do when the very fabric of who you are is ripped away and you have to rediscover, recreate, reinvent a whole new life?

Welcome to my world. I sincerely hope you never have to join it.

As I walk this sometimes lonely path–please don’t get me wrong–I am very happy with my wife, with our family, with the life we are trying to build… But, I am in great need of patience. Because I can’t yet be where I once was, it sometimes feels very lonely outside the success I used to enjoy. I need to learn patience with myself–the rebuilding is not happening overnight. And I need others to be patient with me as I constantly try to keep my footing and find my way.

As much as I would like to believe I am the only person struggling, the truth is there are people in every direction who are hurting, struggling, and maybe even at the point of giving up.

You know people like that. You know people who are afraid to reveal just how much they hurt and struggle.

Chances are, you may be that person too…

What can you do? What can we do to help?

I thought you’d never ask…

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In my past life as a preacher, I always taught this passage in a simplified version: Love God; love others.

Loving God could only really be expressed appropriately by loving others.

How do you do that? Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. So in any situation, you give, help, recognize, and meet the needs of others before yourself..

But what about when someone is hurting? When life has stuck a blow almost too hard to comprehend? What do you do when the pain is self-inflicted through bad decisions and wrong priorities?

Maybe we should also ask, if somebody is hurting, does it really matter whose fault it is?

No. The answer is no. Pain doesn’t differentiate and neither should we.

So what do you do?

For the most part, we have four choices.

  • Judgment
  • Fixing
  • Loving
  • Helping

The easiest to do is judging. And when we judge, guess what we try to do next? Fix it (because the person in pain obviously is incapable of doing it themselves). Guys, ask yourself how many times you tried to fix a problem for your significant other and judged them in the process?

Judging is easy until we find ourselves in the same place–and discover for ourselves that some things cannot be fixed.

So that leaves us with loving and helping. Loving may not mean anything else but sitting quietly and being available. If you put yourself in the position of loving, then a way to help ease the burden, not fix it, will make itself known.

I sometimes hear people say they aren’t very compassionate… I don’t believe it for a minute. However, if they could tamp down their inclination to judge and fix, they (we) might be surprised at just how compassionate they (we) can be…

I am trying to listen to my own advice… How can I help you?