In the present day, with things as they are in our society, I heard someone say recently that the truth was “in need of pastoral care.” What she meant is that the idea of truth and the telling of it needed the support of a compassionate presence, a little non-anxious tenderness. Truth is in need of devoted attention.
It seems to me that we have become a people who act as if we don’t know what the truth is any more, that we can’t even recognize it. I’m not implying that we don’t know how to be mean or say what we think. We can do that. We could always do that; we just used to do it quietly, under our breath, and usually in more than just one hundred and forty characters. Now, it seems like we have mislabeled truth and honesty for ugliness and name calling.
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I’m not talking about that kind of truth telling. I’m talking about the kind in which we lay bare our souls to each other, where we say out loud, “I don’t know what I believe today.” Or maybe even, “Help.”
I suppose that’s why I love hospice. Folks who are dying will usually tell the truth. They don’t have the time or feel the need to pretty themselves up, make their faith presentable, their spiritual path pristine. They’ll tell you, or at least the chaplain, they’re scared or mad or so utterly disappointed in how things turned out. But they also tell you when God showed up in the plainsong of the cardinal, in the picture drawn and delivered by a grandchild, the touch of their spouse. Dying people speak from the heart; that’s the only way they know to do it.
So, I’m asking, what would it be like if we told the truth? If we talked openly about our fears and prejudices, if we were really honest about why we get so angry about hot button issues, why we cannot talk to someone with a different political stance than ours without getting red in the face angry?
And is it possible that in this society where the truth has been beaten up so bad that communities of faith might be the places where we were willing to tend it back to life? Is it possible that the sanctuary could become the one safe place where we bear our souls and trust that having done so will not create a backlash for us?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know if we can do that even in the sacred spaces or maybe I should say, especially in the sacred spaces. We bring such religious weapons with us.
Still, as so many of the faithful seek to create a place of love, a place to welcome the dwelling of God and God’s people, as broken and healed as we all are, maybe it is possible. And wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to be told we’re dying before we try?
Lynne Hinton is a co-pastor of Mt. Hope United Church of Christ in Whitsett (Guilford County) and author. Her newest book is called Traveling Light. Learn more: www.lynnehinton.com