I have a been a Bishop now for 18 months and though I don’t like to talk about it online I think that it is important to know if I am to express what I want to say in this post.
Last week the wife of one of my counsellors died. She had been sick for a very long time, and though she had deteriorated quickly in the weeks preceding her passing, it was still a shock to many in the ward.
I have gone through this experience before with another family but I still felt woefully inadequate to comfort and counsel a man, who was not only 45 years my senior, but who also has been a faithful member of the Church longer than I have been alive. I love him and his wife but there was nothing I could say that did not seem trite or insignificant when faced with such overwhelming pain. As I watched him shift between reminiscent laughter and deep sadness I could not patronise nor condescend to offer hollow words of advice. I felt what it is like to despise my youth.
Within the limited scope of my life-experience, few situations have been as painful as the spiritual vacuum that I have felt sitting with him. It is not so much that I felt deserted by God but rather that I had no right to speak about experiences I have never had and could not conceive.
Yet, infantile as it seems, a scene from ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ has offered me great consolation in such circumstances. After the tragic, fatal diagnosis of Lars’ plastic girlfriend some of the women come over and sit, because ‘that is what we do in hard times’. Despite my lack of spiritual insight and my narrow capacity with language, I have been able to visit and to listen. Though I realise that this may not be what people want or expect from a Bishop, I have felt that it is all I can offer under such circumstances.
I only hope that my being-there is enough, because I can always go over and sit.