A number of years ago I found myself at a concert, sitting next to a casual acquaintance. Joan had inoperable cancer, a fact known throughout the community, but not at the top of my mind that evening. As I sat down, I greeted her, “Hi. How are you?” She replied, “Oh, fine.” Then she paused and said with a kind of direct honesty, “Were you just asking, or do you really want to know?”
In that moment I realized I had been caught in the cultural trap of saying casual words of greeting without paying real attention to their meaning. And Joan had been caught in the same trap, giving a casual response that didn’t begin to describe her reality. Joan was no longer taking life for granted and her question made me realize I did indeed care about how she was doing. For the next few minutes, Joan spoke of how she and her family were preparing for her death. That conversation was a holy journey for both of us.
This message is adapted from “A Holy Journey” written by Karen G. Bockelman in the April 2012 issue of Gather magazine. Today we remember John of Damascus, theologian and hymnwriter, who died around 749.