Sometimes the sense of loss is very, very saddening. It creates an inconsolable disappointment that cannot be comforted, and those who attempt to comfort just sound insulting.
"God must have something better planned for you."
"Where God closes a door, he opens a window."
"We know that all things work together for good..."
How I tire of the well meaning, but generally insulting, slogans sold on key chains at Life Way Christian stores. When things hurt, THEY HURT. Period.
Oh, here's another one.
"Time heals all wounds."
NO IT DOES NOT! Time can be an anesthetic that renders one better able to cope with the pain, but it does not "heal all wounds." If an war veteran in Iraq lost his leg to an IED, would you offer up such piffle to him? Do you expect that his leg will grow back, given enough time to heal? Of course not. You would know better than to insult him in this way.
Far less than the war veteran losing a leg, yet quite potent to me nonetheless, was the pain of turning in all of my chaplain uniforms, badge, pager and gear to the Fate Fire Department today. It was time for me to turn back in those materials which could be used for other officers, firefighters or chaplains in the future. The finality of it was sobering (therefore, I think I'll have a Guinness after typing this). Fate Fire Rescue was one of those roles from which I derived so much identity. Introspective men will often attempt to separate identity and activity in an affirmation of being much more that what one does. While identity and activity can, indeed, become overly confused, it is not possible to fully separate identity and activity. The personal traits that make one adept at an activity spring out of their makeup and character. There is inseparable overlap with identity and activity that, far from being eroded, can even be embraced (within healthy parameters).
Nevertheless, giving up my beloved fire department is a steep trade. Sure I am thankful for the job opportunity in Houston, but it came at quite a price. Today that price was to return the vestiges and tools of my place in the department. Today the price was to give up the department and break away from something I have loved. I have no clue whether another opportunity will arise in the future to "belong" to the extent I did here. I have no assurances that an experience awaits in the future that will be as fulfilling as this was. Therefore, the pain of this loss cannot be consoled with speculations about future blessing.
Better to say, "We'll see what happens," or "I doubt you'll stay idle for long," or even, "You're right. That sucks." These are more legitimate than "God has greater things for you." You might as well say, "Whenever a bell rings, an angels gets its wings." It would be considered just as weighty.
The picture above is the last one I took in the station. Before leaving the station for the last time as chaplain, I had my wife take my picture sitting in "the chaplain's seat" of Engine 1. Yes, the firefighters designated a seat for me to ride with them. A year and a half ago, they did not know me well enough to be comfortable taking me along on a call. Some felt mildly slighted when I was allowed by the Assistant Chief to jump on the engine at the time to accompany them to a call 200 yards down the road from the station. 10 months later, after acquiring a new engine, the firefighters told me, "that's your designated seat, chaplain. Jump right on in there when we go out." I had been finally, fully welcomed into the tribe.
Firefighters are like any close tribe. They do not offer their trust flippantly. To earn it is a privilege and honor. To jump in "the chaplain's seat" when the call comes, the doors roll up, the lights flash, the siren blares and the apparatus barrels down the street is a thrill of epic proportions. What will we find when we get there? What will be my role? Will I offer moral and spiritual support to firefighters on auto-pilot? Will there be victims who need chaplain support? How will God's grace be evident in what we find and how we respond to it?
I loved being the chaplain for Fate Fire Rescue, and now it's gone.
Sometimes the sense of loss is very, very saddening. It creates an inconsolable disappointment that cannot be comforted.