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The Gift of Burgers

Dear Inner Circle,

Some days are heavier than others. Whilst there are practices to engage in after the fact, there is no immediate way and perhaps nor should there be, to not take some of the weight of another’s burden when it is first disclosed. The privilege comes with pain, and I usually turn to a burger or two as an initial healing response. I wish I could report a far more “spiritual” or at least health conscious practice. So, walking to the train station after one such day, I threw on my headphones to ”zone out” as I made a beeline for the closest fast food joint, oblivious to my surroundings, when a short and dark figure leapt out at me, “Boo!” She burst into laughter and I caught a glimpse of her all too rare but beautiful smile. When I jumped, she launched into a big hug and as she folded into me she began weeping. Hers is a story of abandonment and untold suffering that she hides well beneath a tough exterior. We must have made quite a sight on the strip to the passersby. She poured out her heart and finished with “I miss the old Rev, he was always so kind to me, and….he always bought me burgers.” The glint in her eye was there amidst the tears, so we sat together and stared out over the street as we shared a moment of silence and we munched away with grins on our faces.

In situations of desperation and crisis like hers, it is a discipline to resist the urge to “dive in” and take charge of the situation. So much of the suffering that has been visited upon her has been through promises of “salvation” – from partners to institutions which have all failed and compounded her trauma – yet the temptation exists to want to fix things “the right way”. It’s easier to not jump in when your mouth is full of food. I often say to others, “I would rather be lost with you than saved without you”. Which is another way of communicating to someone that they will not walk alone through the dark places, and moves the conversation from “just trust me” to “I trust you”.

As we look back on the last few weeks we see how some leaders took charge in the “cometh the moment, cometh the man (cis)” model of leadership of being “large and in charge”. Whichever path we choose we must acknowledge that we leave others behind. The road of trusting in others is a narrow one and truly the one less travelled. Yet, as we look around, those leaders who chose it have seen how it has made all the difference. They silently lead flourishing communities full of members caring for and serving the needs of a hurting world. Perhaps we need a few more burgers in times of crisis?

It is a useful practice to say goodbye at the end of the day in a way that ensures that the recipient of the farewell knows that they are loved. Some days this can be a greater challenge than others. Though none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, those of our friends and family who live with addictions always face an increased risk. It is why we share communion every week – because it could always be someone’s last, and the room will never be full of exactly the same people. Next Wednesday is International Overdose Awareness Day and we will spend some time together in our Memorial Garden in Kings Cross on Sunday September 4th at 2pm to pay tribute to those we have lost to overdose. There is a time for everything, including more advocacy around decriminalisation and diversion, but for this moment we will mark the memories of those we have loved and lost. Please consider this your invitation to join us.

Thank you for being part of our Inner Circle,

Jon

Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

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