Not alone

He sat unsmiling, pensive, absorbed in a pattern of thoughts that were his and his alone. He was too young to wear such a somber mask. And then I noticed his eyes. Something in his eyes jarred me!

Ted Jones is pastor of the Sharon Seventh-day Adventist church in Portland, Oregon.

Lines were etched on his face, as if an artist had painted it with a coarse brush, leaving marks there forever. He sat unsmiling, pensive, absorbed in a pattern of thoughts that were his and his alone. His very manner set him apart from all the other people in the crowded convention hall.

As I observed him from a distance I wondered, Why is this man so somber, so extra serious, so alone—even though he is surrounded by some two hundred of his fellow ministers? Men sat beside him, behind him, in front of him. He was surrounded—yet somehow alone.

It would seem that someone who belongs to the church, someone who belongs to Christ, someone who has Bibles and inspired commentaries, ought to know the immeasurable joys of being a Christian. So many songs tell of the love of God, His watchcare, His concern—all of which are true. My eyes were drawn back to this one man—not yet middle-aged, too young to wear such a sad, somber mask. His posture was rigid, his lips tightly drawn, and he sat—still, alone.

Then I noticed his eyes. Something in his eyes jarred me! I had seen that look before. One such instance came back to me with vivid clarity.

A dear parishioner had died in the hospital, and the nurse had called me late at night. I had gotten out of bed, dressed, and driven quickly to reach the bedside, feeling quite strange that the only sound reaching my ears was that of my car as it sped through the darkness to the front of the massive hospital.

Arriving before the family, I viewed the still form as it lay there. I offered a silent prayer and then silently withdrew to wait for the others who had been summoned to this moment of reality. Quickly they came up the steps; I met them at the door. No words needed to be exchanged. We knew, all of us, that the dear old mother had breathed her last. And then, there it was that look the look of unspoken pain and inner agony. Behind the tortured expression in the eyes was that inevitable question—Why?

That was the look I saw stamped in the eyes of this minister. Now I knew, at least in part, what it was that seemed to shut out the joy and laughter, that made smiles so difficult, that made him stiff and somewhat disassociated from his fellows. He was going through some experience so heavy that, even when surrounded by fellow clergymen, he was still alone.

It was then I decided to invade his privacy, to enter the prison of pain that held him captive. With a hand upon his shoulder, I asked about his family—his wife, his child.

His wife and child—both were caught in the throes of an illness for which there is no known cure, not even a treatment to reverse the crippling inroads. To minister to the many and varied needs of others while suffering his own personal anguish, this was the painful burden carried by this lonely man. And then I understood why he was alone, wrapped in his thoughts, full of questions that defied answers.

All I could do was tell him that my family and I would pray for him and his family, that we would share his concern—that he was not alone.

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Ted Jones is pastor of the Sharon Seventh-day Adventist church in Portland, Oregon.

June 1981

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