Advent 4: Scary Angels
‘Knowing the love that surpasses knowledge may well mean not knowing much else.’ Loretta Ross-Gotta
God often overshadows the faithful with terrifying opportunities that either crush us or conceive Christ in us.
Mary knew trouble when she saw it: an imposing messenger announces her favor, her ‘set apart’ status. (LK 1: 26-38) Trouble. God disciplines those He loves. Invoking love, Gabriel prepares her for a life of shame and marvel, sorrow and joy. She can bear God only through God. What He asks of her reduces her to Him alone.
So it is with each of us. What will be our response to scary angels who remind us of our favor while asking us to endure the impossible? Life makes demands of us that God employs to change us forever. Our response makes all the difference.
On December 23rd 20-years-ago, I waited at hospital while my father underwent open heart surgery. Strangely, I heard my name being paged on the hospital intercom. ‘Surely they would not announce publicly my dad’s passing,’ I thought. In truth, the call was from Annette back home who exclaimed in a panic: ‘Jim (a staff person) has holed himself up in a hotel room and is threatening to commit suicide due to accusations that he sexually abused a minor…’
Bewildered, I called Jim and talked him out of suicide then was interrupted by my father’s doctor who invited me to see the patient. He was utterly disoriented, flying high on heavy meds and hooked up to a host of tropically colored wires. His state corresponded eerily to my own: ‘Jim? Abuse?’ Thoughts festered as I held Dad’s hand and heard his babbling. He recovered quickly. Ours had yet to begin.
In truth Jim had abused, not one, but two teen boys in our ministry. We knew nothing, especially of any pedophile tendency in Jim. To us, he was merely a faithful and fun administrator. Overnight, he became a predator who had introduced into our ministry the most toxic immorality imaginable. We fired him and informed the police.
An agonizing 10-year process of refinement began: deepening grief over the damage done to the young men, civil suits and impossible financial settlements, countless interrogations.
Most importantly, a wise lawyer who believed in us imposed a searing set of regulations upon us in order to ensure that we would continue abuse-free.
Another lawyer urged us to dissolve our organization and start up again elsewhere, with a new name. He reasoned that dissolution would free us from our obligation to these boys and their families. God spoke to me as clearly as Gabriel did to Mary: ‘I started this work and named it. Desert Stream will live as long as I sustain it.’
We had to consider that. Would He purge the polluted waters? Could He make betrayers trustworthy once more?
We said yes to the One who disciplines His favored ones. 20 years later, trouble has made us better Christ-bearers, cleaner water in the desert.
‘May it be to us as You have said.’ (LK 1:38)