Bedrock

It is said that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was the first to coin the phrase “You cannot step into the same river twice,” which was later combined with his other writings and morphed into the adage “the only constant is change.”  Like many aphorisms, there is a certain level of truth within and yet something about it gives me pause. Heraclitus taught that all things remain in constant process and movement; from fire nature comes and to fire it will return. The cycle repeats and is infinite.

This idea appears diametrically opposed to a belief system which posits that there is a creator God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Perhaps though, we can glean something from both. In my own tradition, there is a beginning, but there is also an everlasting God. From God comes all things and to God all things return. Between the beginning and the end lies the now, the known, and a possible parallel between faith and Pre-Socratic philosophy.

We live in a space where the Kingdom of God is now, but not yet. In this in between the water seems to relentlessly keep coming, wearing down the banks, and moving loose stones unapologetically around us. This constant shift can be disorienting and painful at times. There will be seasons when we are called to float downstream for a bit and seasons when we stop, plant our feet firmly upon bedrock, and rest with the assurance that our cornerstone will hold.

The water will indeed keep moving: Children grow, friends move, jobs change, but God remains. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the riverhead and the ocean to which the water flows. It is my prayer that each of us has the courage to float when it’s time to move and the faith to trust the bedrock when it’s time to rest. May God give us the wisdom to know the difference.

Paraclete

 

The Gospel of John begins with Jesus stating, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He goes on to comfort the disciples by promising that after he is gone God will provide the Holy Spirit to help guide them. Notice that at no time does Jesus say, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be great from now on!” Instead, he tells them that he is going on ahead to prepare a place where they will eventually arrive in the future. In essence, he is saying that things are going remain tough for a while longer, but help is coming. The Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit in verse 16 is Paraclete. The roots of this word originally signified “Called to one’s side,” but it has also been understood as meaning comforter, advocate, or intercessor. A Paraclete is a witness.

In many ways, our hospital caregiving team is made up of Paracletes much like the advocate Jesus promises. While medicine can often improve bodily conditions, we cannot take away the reality of sickness, injury, or death in this world. We can however be called to the side of those suffering to provide comfort and bear witness to what they are going through. Grief can only be absorbed by communities which have the audacity to lean in and say, “I see that you are hurting.” Beyond all our technology, skill, and training lies the human caregiver who is called to be this witness. Let us not forget that we treat more than the body and may our community hear us saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, for I will stand by your side and be your witness.”