1 Peter 3:8-12
I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but here goes nothing: Chaplains
are not immune to the caregiver reality known as “dark humor.” In
fact, there are days when we are quite proficient practitioners of the
art. When the darkness of tragedy overwhelms us, gallows humor is
sometimes the only coping mechanism left in our reserve.
I had a chaplain colleague, though, who never went there. Peggy
Johnson worked with a particularly challenging population: pediatric
oncology. She knew the complexities of the disease and she knew the
complicated, devastating treatments that must be utilized for any
hope of recovery. Peggy had every reason to develop a harsh cynicism
about the things she heard every day, especially the platitudes of
those who claimed to speak for God.
And yet, she never did. Peggy never failed to see the sacred in
every single life. Even when she became weary with well-doing, she
managed to utter words of hope and love. Even in the darkest stories,
she saw God’s light. And she wasn’t afraid to speak of it with tender
joy. Peggy is retired now, and I miss her voice every day.
Perhaps it is an overstatement to equate “dark humor” with evil. After all, there really are days when sarcasm is the best we can muster, particularly when we are confronted with the true evils of this world. Perhaps I need to offer more of that sympathy that Peter speaks of and be kinder to myself and my colleagues when our reactions feel harsh.
All I know for sure is this: my heart feels softer and fuller when I
can whisper words of light in the face of darkness.
Imagine a dark moment in your life. What words of light did you hear or discover at that time that gave you real hope?
When the weariness of life causes me to spiral down into a darker disposition, lead me upward, O God. Bring light and remind me to bring light to others. Amen.