Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inconsolable Losses

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.


Melissa said...

Your expression of the pain of loss is moving. I want to be one who offers comfort and support, but I know that whatever I say will most likely be inadequate.

I can only say what I know to be true: you are a strong person with a strong wife and family. You are an active person, eager to engage in life fully. Your life experience, your insight, and your compassion are valuable commodities that will be welcomed at your next stop.

With those truths in mind, I say to you, "Yeah, that really sucks... but I'm sure you won't be idle for long..." and I wish you all success and satisfaction in Houston.


Amber said...

What you say is so true... and that kind of loss does indeed suck. But I have no doubt that you will find your place in Houston.

Good luck dear friend... to all of you. IF there's anyone who can make this move a success in all ways, it's you. :)

Eric said...

And now, for your daily Reality Check:

Patton first had to relinquish command of Seventh Army before he could be placed in command of Third Army.

You are transferring command. Whose 'army' are you in, anyway? Have you resigned that commission? No? Then utilization of you, in all your qualities, will undoubtedly occur elsewhere in some fashion. Not "God has better for you," just "God has OTHER for you." (Why belittle what is being lost?)

All your involvement as Fire Chaplain only AFFIRMS the character that is you, and said character is what made you qualified and ready to be Fire Chaplain. The position evidenced your qualifications, it did not create them.

Your yearning to "belong" is well-known, as manifested in your association with ancient temple monks (Kung-Fu), your scholarly endeavors (DTS), and finally a long-held fire service interest (Backdraft) fulfilled in a manner you could never have predicted at the time. This yearning is what makes you able and ready to integrate into any such similar hierarchal system. With it being in you far more than a passive inclination, but a driving motivation, why would one doubt that such an assimilation would not happen again?

It is YOU, after all, that we're talking about. Your character is the same, your drive is the same, your general attachments and reverences are the same -- why should we expect different results?

Move the oxygen molecule next to two OTHER hydrogen molecules, and -- voila! -- you still get water. We should, YOU should other reaction, simply by relocating the reactive element. You will 'react' to your new environment with the same qualities as before.

Was there some essence in the 'small town' that made this first reaction more probable? Yes. Given ONLY one oxygen molecule, and ONLY two hydrogen molecues..."in such close proximity"...makes reaction inevitable. Would it be so absolutely unavoidable elsewhere, with more molecules in a larger environment? No...but, the probability remains high -- and remember, we're learning to operate in probabilities, not just possibilities -- the probability remains high that REACTION will take place. Brace yourself for it.

If the T-R-A-N-S-F-E-R is painful...if shaking hands with each of your fellow officers, in line, one at a time...brings a lump to your throat, and makes words succint...well, that is natural.

But to suppose that 'this was IT' is ridiculous.

If we were to see an eagle soaring, wings outstretched effortlessly across an upholding breeze, would we marvel? Would say unto ourselves, "See, a miracle! It FLIES!!"

No, it does WHAT it does, because of HOW it is.

Leave-taking is sad business. Do not project that sadness over the remainder of your endeavors by wondering if such a fellowship, and such contribution, is in your future. It's YOUR future -- what ELSE would you expect to be in it?!

You are HOW you are, therefore you shall DO as how you are makes you do.

Get over it. Get on with it.

...and yes, every time a child's faith in God and the still-present possibility of Good is emboldened by a father's...

You Matter More
than Any Sacrifice
I May Have to Endure for her ...every time she sees in his actions another Father's love manifested ...every time she sees miraculous provision as a result of a father's devotion both to her and his community ...every time a father holds her, and he CHERISHES and she BELIEVES ...yes, an angel gets his wings.

Naomi said...

This made me cry, alot. I LOVE the department too. I will miss it very much. It is hard to explain the loss that is felt in leaving it. I hadn't realized just what a tramendous thing it was to be part of, and mostly, I loved being part of it with you. You will always be Chapn' to them.