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Midweek Musing for 9-14-22 - Walk on By

In my office, I have a small slip of paper by my desk that says, “God, help me notice what you want me to see.”

I believe one of the most important things we can do as Christians is to take the time to see the needs that are all around us and upon seeing them reach out in love.

Now part of the joy and struggle of serving at Lafayette Presbyterian is my continuous wrestling with the scriptures. I am continually surprised by how scripture speaks and am awed by its beauty, poetry, and symbolism which is found throughout the text. The Bible is indeed a living word given as a gift to the people of God.

Additionally, I am astounded at how nuanced the text is and how no one can ever fully understand the scriptures.

One of the things I say almost every Sunday in my sermons is the statement “If I understand the text.” I say this knowing that at best I understand only part of the text—only one view of it—and indeed pray that by God's grace it might speak to someone who hears it.

The truth is that I am blind to lots of things we find in the text, and it is only by reading and listening to others who too have wrestled with the text and then by prayerfully listening for God that I am able to write a sermon and preach it from the pulpit.

Anyway, I share all those words to share these…

So one discovery I have made is that each time Jesus cured physical blindness, he also opened the eyes of those around the one who was physically healed to the blindness they had towards the suffering of others.

These bystanders' eyes were suddenly opened to the pain and injustice that was right in front of them. And they too, just like the one healed from physical blindness, were also now called to see anew the needs of the world and then go do the good that was theirs to do.

We too as we read these scriptures are also invited to join the story—opening our own eyes in order to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Friends, we are called to see and then to love.

Sometimes it is with gifts of our resources.

Sometimes it is with words or prayers.

Sometimes it is with simply a smile or just being present.

In fact, I have learned that more often than not, simply being with someone in their hurt is more than enough.

One of the reasons I think this idea of both noticing and being present is on my mind is that I discovered a poem I wrote a long time ago, as I was cleaning out some papers in the great filing cabinet cleanout of 2022. I had sort of forgotten I had written this poem, to be honest.

Now while it is written in the first person it is not an actual first-person account, but a combination of things happening in my life and the lives of people around me, now decades ago.

I am not sure I have shared this poem with anyone beyond a couple of high school/college friends with whom I still keep in touch today through Facebook.

Now I doubt they remember reading it, but I remember sharing it with them and that they gave me encouraging words that made me believe I was worthy and perhaps an ok writer, even if—as you will see—I am no Wadsworth or TS Elliot.

The idea behind the poem is that we are called to notice pain, and then to love those who are struggling with it. And we are to do so with no strings attached. We have to choose to act in love rather than simply walking by.

Anyway, years ago I wrote this introduction and poem that I’d like to share with you as the closing to this musing.

David Wilkerson nicely stated, “Love is not only something you feel, it is something you do.” I guess this poem is a reminder to us about the doing part of love.

Walk On By

I saw you last week sitting alone on that park bench crying

But I walked on by, rushed by deadlines fooling myself that you really wanted to be alone

And now I sit here where you sat and now I’m crying

For they buried you today, and I can see them closing the lid to that coffin again and again

The same way I closed the lid on your life when I walked on by not stopping not caring

But I did care, I loved you

Yet on that gray fall day, I didn’t show you, I walked on by

Why did I keep walking?

All those times you stopped, wiped the tears from my eyes, and gave me a hug. Yet I kept on walking.

Did you see me walk away and think I didn’t care?

Or had you just given away all of your hugs and just needed one given to you?

I should have done it. Hugged you, wiped away your tears, told you I love you. Yet, I walked on by.

And now you're dead. An empty bottle of pills, life now ended. Eternal sleep achieved.

And now I sit here on that same park bench where you sat

on another cold gray day,

as the dead oak leaves fall all around me.

Wondering why, closing my eyes, trying to relive that day, and praying that this time I go to you.

Each time though, I walk on by, too worried about myself and my deadlines to stop.

And now you’re gone…forever.

And all I can do is cry for you.

No tears are there for me to wipe.

And the tightest hug in the world won’t bring you back now.

Sitting here alone I’m too scared to move and too frightened to live.

And I look to the other side of the park to see one of my friends,

And I hope…

But they simply

Walk on by.

Clay Gunter

PS - on a final note if you or someone you love is in crisis and considering suicide the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can now be reached 24-7 by simply dialing 988.

As of July 16, 2022, 988 has been designated nationwide as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Please know help is available and that you are loved!


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