Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Speaking of Suffering

One of my closest friends is a United Methodist minister named Aaron. I met him while he was a graduate student studying Medieval literature at the University of Kentucky, living an a rat-hole apartment behind my home church in Lexington. That stately building, home to "First Church," one of the oldest and most prestigious congregations in the Kentucky Conference, stood in such contrast to the humble neighborhood surrounding it. The wealthy suburbanites who drove across town to fill its still-proud pews had no points of intersection with the desperate poverty that surrounds every downtown church since white-flight bled our cities dry.

When I met Aaron he looked homeless. Sporting an old Russian beard (like a ZZ Top beard, only it hadn't yet turned white) adorned with denim and flanel, he cared not one whit for his appearance. His stark looks complimented his uncompromising personality. He had fire, both personally and intellectually. He helped me learn to love the quirks of the English language, even before he helped me learn to more deeply love the Lord, and the Word.

He was quite possibly the most unlikely member of our church, having ventured in one Sunday shortly after he'd had a conversion experience. But he quickly made himself indisposable, helping out with the Youth Group and even going on a mission trip to Estonia (he has a love of all things Eastern European, especially if they involve language or culture). As he grew in his faith, and as his involvement with the church expanded, he began to realize a calling to pastoral ministry, dropped out of his PhD program, and entered seminary.

He is the rare minister who defies all labels, a theological and political conservative who often shares the social concerns of liberals. He has no trouble breaking from the party line, if he will even acknowledge that such a line exists. I could spend thousands of words praising him for the depth of his faith and his service, not to mention the compassion with which he reaches out to the least and the lost, including the teenage Strappy, wandering in his own wilderness.

A couple of years ago Aaron's wife was diagnosed with cancer. Recently he started a blog, Grace Under Pressure, to help share the spiritual journey of fighting that cancer, and the bitterness and discouragement which so often accompanies such a fight. His most recent post is one of the most powerful meditations on suffering I've ever read. Since we've been discussing theodicies here, I thought that some of you should check out what Aaron has to say. For him, as for us sometimes, suffering is not some abstract subject, but simply a fact of life, to be overcome by the grace of the God who turns bad into good.


Chris said...

"suffering is not some abstract subject, but simply a fact of life, to be overcome by the grace of the God who turns bad into good."

This might sound kind of odd to you, but to most, that would sound like "blind faith" and as a christian, somtimes that can be one of the hardest things to overcome. To admit you can't controll it anymore, to completly give it all to god. Somepeople like to take something, and hold on to it for as long as they can. Others don't want to give it up. But to be able to say "God I give it all to you" is the mark of a true christian. To be able to admit that it is out of your controll, and out of your power, that you are hepless is hard. But to watch god's grace and magic perform is remarkable.

It's unbeliveable what the grace of god can really do. I still have trouble with that. As a christian, I still want to handle things on my own. I still want to be self dependent, instead of god dependent. And I belive alot of christians struggle with that.

But by the by, all we can do is give it all to him, even when it seems inpossible, even when it's the hardest thing to let go. And that is the mark of a true christian.

Your friend sounds like a great man, and an even better person. I know for a fact that the grace of god is working in his life. And that god will take care of his wife, and his family as he copes with these hard times. Tell him I'll keep him in my prayers, and I wish him all the best.

There I go babaling again. Seems like sometimes I can't quit talking ^_^. Anywho, it's been a real long time since we've talked. I'd love to go hang out sometime. Weather it's bowling, getting a bit to eat, or maybe just shooting some ball up at the park. To me it's all lost memories gone to fast. I miss having you as a youth ministor, and more importantly as a friend.

I regret not going to youth as much as I could have. I regret many things, but thats right at the top of the list. That church isn't what it used to be. It's nothing but faded memories gone to fast. I still look at it as a memory of what it used to be.

Me and my family have been going to Valley Veiw. They had an outstanding preacher, but as all people do, he left. He said it was gods calling to call him to a church down in Alabama. I think he had relatives down there so, it seemed to work out for the best.

As for me, i've been attending youth there reguarly. There high school youth group has about 50 kids, it's a really big deal. There middle school youth group is just as big.

So they have a youth band out there. The band performs at all the youth meetings. I was lucky enough to try out, and make it. I've been playing drums there for the past month. I have to share playing time with a senior drummer. ofc he gets more playing time, it's his last year. But once he leaves, I'll be ready to step in and play there every wendsday.

Anywho man, I can see I've probobly tooken up alot of your time. I see the family is looking great, the little ones so big. I know he's got a heck of a father. And some big foot steps to follow (literaly ^_^)

~ Doggett (lil` chris)

Chris said... . ( Aim = Dogett502 <-----Talk to me on that ^^

Sandalstraps said...


As far as I'm concerned you don't need to regret anything about the time you spent in my youth group. You were always such a delight when you were there.

Aaron will appreciate your prayers.

I'll look for you online. I hope everything is well with you and yours.

Incidentally, it is strange for me to see you sign your name "Lil Chris." I always thought that you hated it when people called you that - like they were making you into a mini me clone of, well, me. Of course you have always been your own person.

Still digging the blues? As my friend Aaron points out in his post, they help with suffering, allow us to see that in our suffering we are not alone.

Oy, yeah, and I miss you, too. I miss all of the gang from Epiphany, really. It was hard to leave there.