We don’t always know where our efforts will be used. In worship, our pastors blessed three prayer shawls created by loving hands in our church. I expected the shawls to go to people outside our church whom I had never met. Then the pastor wrapped one of the shawls around the shoulders of a newly widowed woman in our church family and prayed, “When you wear this, may you be wrapped in love.”
Tears sprang to my eyes. It was only a week ago that the church gathered to commemorate the life of this woman’s husband. The grief was raw and palpable in the church family. Not only had I walked the journey of this untimely death, but the front page of the newspaper cried with sadness for the loss of lives from Japan’s recent earthquake. Then our local paper featured the funeral of a woman and her two young children. Her estranged boyfriend had taken out his pain on them. I caught myself begging, “Mercy! Mercy Lord!” I fretted and worried, “How can these hurts be healed? How long will those who lost their loves suffer? How dark can it get?”
In Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, author Helen Simonson describes the gathering for a meal after a funeral. A motley crew of old, young, traditional, and eccentric has gathered to remember Pettigrew’s brother. In the moment, words of comfort are spoken awkwardly. Pettigrew comments, “They were saying what they could at a time when even the finest poetry must fail to comfort.”
In reading those words, I remembered something vital to my faith. The community of faith through their physical expression of God’s presence brings light to darkness. The church family through prayer shawls, casseroles, and flowers bring comfort in the time of grief. I had forgotten that mercy comes hand in hand with those who represent God. I had twisted myself into the darkness and forgotten that the light is as close as a friend in faith.
Often people say, “I never know what to say at a time like this.” Or sometimes, “I can’t do much but I can crochet prayer shawls.” We don’t realize that our efforts to comfort and care can be multiplied like loaves and fish. We just have to show up bearing the light of God’s love.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.