Trust the Catcher

January 30, 2015

Dear Linwood Family and Friends,

It is January.  The snow covers the ground, the wind is biting cold, the trees are barren, but…it is almost February – which means that the new Linwood season is fast approaching!  I am eagerly anticipating gathering together, sharing in the profound blessings of Linwood, and seeing what the Lord has in store for us as we move forward.

Let me just toss out a “teaser.”  We are in the second year of celebrating “Faith, Family, and Friendship.”  We will be focusing on the “Family” part.  “That’s nice,” you may be saying, “but I am not part of a family with a husband, wife, two kids (a boy and a girl) in school, and a golden retriever.”  Don’t worry.  We are going to look at husbands and wives, parents and children (from a Biblical view), but also extended families, intergenerational relationships, singles, the “family of God,” and much more.  Trust me.  You are not only included, but will often be the focus – whatever your “family.”

There are actually two reasons for the timing of this first version of “Hu’s Views.”  I had planned to begin sending our emails about February 1st.  But today I write to you with a deep sense of gratitude and joy, but also grief and loss.

My “Covenant Group has been a “family” for me for more than thirty-five years.” This is a group of about thirty pastors from around the country that has met together every year.  We began as a group of young, evangelical Presbyterian pastors.  Needless to say, we are no longer young! Today is likely to be the day that the first of our “family” will die.  His name is Steve Haynor.  He is the President of Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

Actually, everyone (including Steve, his wife, and his hospice doctor) thought he was going to die yesterday.  And he was ready.  He had said his good-byes; his family was gathered around him, and most of all he was at peace with the Lord.  To everyone’s surprise, he is still with us today.

I want to share with you a portion of what Steve’s wife, Sharol, wrote on the blog that was established to keep all of us up to date.

Yesterday and this morning, Steve continues to be alert and communicative though very weak. We have continued to sit with him, saying our goodbyes, telling stories, laughing, crying. Wondering at his ability to live when he has had nothing to eat or drink except ice chips. Grateful for the hospice doctor who continues to be attentive to Steve, keeping his pain and nausea under control. It has been a precious, unforgettable time.

Steve is so ready to die and we have released him to do so, but as he said this morning, he just can’t make it happen.

A friend shared this excerpt from theologian and writer Henri Nouwen’s biography by Robert A. Jonas. We just read it to Steve and it resonated with him so we share it with you. Thank you for your prayers as we continue to wait and watch, wonder and trust.

“The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg two years ago, my friends Franz and Reny invited me and my father to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I first saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers. The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, asked me to dinner, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.

“One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.’ ‘How does it work?’ I asked. ‘The secret,’ Rodleigh said, ‘is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catch bar.’

” ‘You do nothing!’ I said, surprised. ‘Nothing,’ Rodleigh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.’

“When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: ‘Father into your hands I commend my Spirit.’ Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.’ ”

What a wonderful truth, not only for the last moments of life, but for all the moments of our lives.

Blessings in Christ,
Hu Auburn, Linwood Park Pastor

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