I just took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. A young student in our church called me, and a few others on staff, out on Facebook. We endured the wet, icy, baptism today.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is a funny, creative, summer-minded attempt to raise money and awareness for the terrible Lou Gehrig’s disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). If you know of anyone who has suffered this, you know the horror it can be. There is significant research being done in many areas. Our drenched team (there were three of us who were challenged) is donating money to John Paul II Medical Research Institute, the Home of Give Cures. And by any measure of counting, the effort to get money for research and raise public awareness of this dreaded disease has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Walking away from the soaking, I began to think about this in a wider frame of reference. I thought about the summer horrors in the Ukraine, the Middle East, in Ferguson, and the evil spread by ISIS in its barbarous inhumanity. I thought about the very few people I have known or known of who have suffered ALS. And for a few minutes, I wondered if I had trivialized the seriousness of what people face in their lives. I didn’t mean to discount their pain, but I wondered if I had.
Really? A bathing suit, a t-shirt, and a bucket of iced water on a hot summer day? Isn’t that an insult to the suffering? What can I possibly know about the horrors of the diseaseor the horrors of everything else that is on fire in the world today? Here I was, laughing myself silly as iced water was poured over my head. The temperature of the water literally took my breath away.
But, I thought to myself, if something was to take my breath away, shouldn’t it be the pain and suffering of the world and not the frigid waters of an internet sensation? In a sense, yes. There is too much pain and suffering in the world; it is hard to take in. If you focus on it exclusively, it will leave you breathless. We know now, more than any summer I can remember, how broken the world is. For anyone who needs proof of the brokenness of humanity and the pernicious nature of evil all they need to do is look to Ferguson, Missouri or Fallujah, Iraq. It is there. It is the wheelchair of an ALS victim. It is everywhere.
I believe that pastors and priests have a very serious role in the world today. We must hold up a mirror of the world to itself. Our preaching and our teaching must include the sad and painful litanies of what this world is coming to. We must point out the pain and atrocities that afflict the children of God everywhere.
We must do that. But we cannot do only that. There is a lighter, more joyous side of life to be upheld as well. Life is bad…but it is not all bad. Sometimes, it is good…very good. There is disease…but there is dance. There is suffering…but there is heroism. There are humanitarian crisis almost every week, and there is usually a story that emerges about some kind of deep humanitarian caring as well. This is because God has made us in His own image. And, as his image bearers, we shed tears sometimes for pain…and sometimes for joy and fun.