Perhaps here in my weekly writings I write too much about our sinfulness. When I am giving talks and retreats though, I draw attention to the fact that our BROKENNESS comes about through more than just our sinfulness. In addition to being broken by sin, we are also wounded by the world. That is what I want to address today.
Both of these issues can cause us to feel separated from God. When experiencing brokenness as a result of sin we find our consolation in God’s mercy. When we experience the pains of being wounded by the world we usually find our consolation in God’s love.
Today I want to draw attention to how the Love of God is usually and normally experienced. There is an old saying that states: “God has no hands and feet on earth but ours.” These words are so true. In our day to day life, when we experience the Love of God, it is commonly experienced when we encounter Him through the actions of another human being. God is manifested to us through them. God dwells in us! As disciples of Christ, our hope should be that individuals who are hurting in some way, can come to encounter God’s love through their encounter with us.
Where did the title “STUFF” HAPPENS” come from? Candidly it comes from a bumper sticker. The bumper sticker uses a word other than “stuff.” The word used is a more course, vulgar and less publicly acceptable word than I can state here. I have no doubt that by now you know the word. These two words when combined contain a powerful and perhaps theological message.
Perhaps I need not be so squeamish or Victorian about avoiding the actual word used on the bumper sticker. After all, it has been observed by Bible scholars that the word dung or manure appear in some fashion in the Bible 13 times. Jesus Himself is recorded to have used these words.
The phrase “STUFF” HAPPENS, although a vulgar slang phrase, makes a simple existential observation that life is full of unpredictable events. The phrase is an acknowledgment that bad things happen to people seemingly for no particular reason.
Let’s face it; the use of any word used to reference manure is still a stinky word. There are some things in life that cannot be described in any better way than to reference the pungent nastiness of our waste. I think that is why this bumper sticker, when it first made its appearance in 1983, had such universal appeal and everyone understood its broader and deeper meaning.
Now allow me to give you several general and then one specific example of what I am trying to say and why the “omitted word” perhaps states things better than any other word by comparing life’s events to dung.
- Why is any child born with any form of mental slowness or a birth defect or an incurable disease? Stuff Happens!
- Why does a young newly married bride get killed in a car accident just one week after her marriage? Stuff Happens!
- Why in a fit of anger does someone pull a trigger and someone else gets killed? Stuff Happens!
- Why do some people develop Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Heart Issues, or have a strokes or any other disease? Stuff Happens!
- Why are some people prone to addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography? Stuff Happens!
- Why do some people, at a young age, find themselves attracted to their same sex and not the opposite sex? Stuff happens!
- Why do tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis claim the lives of some people and spare the lives of others? Stuff Happens!
- Why do some people experience severe loneliness, depression, and other mental illnesses? Stuff happens!
Let me give you a specific example of the pain caused when stuff happens. One of my dear friends, Joe Galloway, who you know as the author of THE BROKEN DOOR was hit by a life’s event that ONLY the love of God can heal.
Joe’s dear wife and my good friend Charleen Galloway passed away on Tuesday February 9th. She had battled cancer most of her adult life, especially during the last 15 years. Charleen was a devoted wife, great mom and good friend. She had a strong yet quiet faith. She will be missed by many.
As if her death was not difficult enough, Joe’s youngest daughter was in the hospital having undergone a life threatening serious procedure on her brain just the day before. When I received the call from Joe, my wife and I immediately went to see Joe at the hospital where he and his other two children had just told his daughter who had undergone the brain procedure about her mom’s passing. Joe was enduring a pain that most of us cannot imagine. Still in the midst of his pain Joe shared this saying with us: “God will never give you more than you can handle,” but he added this to it “with Him at your side.” I knew at that moment, that with the passage of time, because of his faith, Joe would heal and his broken heart would be consoled.
As we sat at a table in the lobby of the hospital Joe asked me this question: “How can anyone get through a period like this without the LOVE and SUPPORT of close Christian friends?” Joe needed a hug from both my wife and I…..any words would have rung meaningless! Christ was present in those Hugs.
Why did Joe have to endure this? Because “Stuff” Happens!
This past weekend’s reading at mass was about Jesus’s 40 days in the desert. It seems like there are times when stuff happens quickly in life and then goes away and then there are other times when we seem to experience stuff happening for 40 days or 40 years.
When stuff in life happens; those things for which there is neither reason nor understanding, the healing and consolation and ability to cope with these events comes from one source and that source is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God alone can strike a stone in the parched and dry deserts of our life and bring forth flowing and life sustaining waters. Now, going back to what I said earlier, “Jesus has no hands and feet on earth but ours.”
Are we willing to be those hands and feet of our Lord for someone who is experiencing the “stuff” life has to dish out?
Sirach 6:14-16 states this: “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.”
I will just wrap up by asking you this question. When the “Stuff” of life happens to someone you know, will you be the one that brings the love of Christ to them today?
I pray dear God that you will bring our dear friend Charleen Galloway into your loving presence, that you will comfort her family during this difficult time, and that you will comfort all people who are hurting as a result of the stuff happening in their lives. Finally I ask the Holy Spirit to embolden all of us to bring the love of Christ to those in need. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!
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