“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Just a few short weeks ago, we heard these words as we were gathered for Ash Wednesday worship. An ashen cross placed on our foreheads. That same day, families were mourning in Parkland Florida after another school shooting. The reality is death is all around us and can happen at any given moment. And today, that reality hit again. A dear friend and colleague was taken by cancer.
My first reaction was that I wanted to curse God. How could God take our friend away from his beloved wife and daughter? How could God take our friend away from his parents and siblings? How could God take our friend away from us? I’m numb…and angry….and heartbroken. Another servant of God taken way too soon.
Ben and my paths crossed at Wartburg Theological Seminary. Ben’s first year was the year the class I started with was on internship. I hung out with Ben’s class a lot. Some of my fave memories are with Ben, Bryant, Jon and Paul (PJ). I don’t think this group of boys (now men) knew it then but they honestly got me through that year. In a lot of ways, they were the little brothers I never had.
My friend Carrie and I road-tripped to Wisconsin for Ben and Mara’s wedding. It was such a joy to share in that day. The joy and love between them was immediately evident the first time I met Mara. And then when Ben became a dad, the love only multiplied. A love that was grounded in God’s love for Ben and all of us.
I haven’t been able to see Ben as much in the last few years. But last year, in the midst of DAPL and Standing Rock, Ben and I shared a holy conversation over Facebook messenger. It honestly felt like we were gathered once again in the refectory over a glass of beer and having theological discussions. Ben traveled to North Dakota along with our other friend Ben to see Standing Rock for themselves. Ben’s actions are a reminder to me of how faithfully he lived his life and embodied the words of Micah 6:8.
Tonight, as I remember all the memories we shared, I know myself and many of Ben’s family and friends are standing in the Lenten wilderness looking for God. We are crying out asking, “Why?”
However, in the midst of this barren wilderness, I know that Ben is claimed in the waters of Baptism. Yet the Lenten journey seems much darker tonight. To be honest, it might take me awhile to not feel like I’m standing in the wilderness. God and I and many others might not be on speaking terms for a little while. This pain; this death is way too real right now.