Melissa Rau: 0:30
This is 4 People with Bishop Rob Wright. Welcome to 4 People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau, your host, and this is a conversation inspired by 4 Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s 4 Faith and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. You named this week’s devotion Garland. Yeah, not Judy.
Bishop Rob Wright: 1:00
Not Judy, yeah, not Judy.
Melissa Rau: 1:02
You based it off what you call Jesus’ favorite poet, isaiah, specifically chapter 61, verses 1 through 11, which is a powerful reminder of what God is all about Good news.
Bishop Rob Wright: 1:14
Melissa Rau: 1:16
We love decorating with Garland in crowns.
Bishop Rob Wright: 1:18
Melissa Rau: 1:19
And you highlight God’s gift of reversal. Yep, what further impressions do you have about the ways God works through and redeems brokenness?
Bishop Rob Wright: 1:28
Oh my God, let me tell you this is God’s sweet spot. This is how God is God for so many of us, experientially, right. Well, before we get there, let me just say my wife and my daughter. In my house the boys slept all the Christmas decorations up from the basement. We bring them back alive from the basement and from the shelves in storage downstairs and then we throw them into a clump in the living room and then my wife and my daughter make of these disparate objects beauty the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the stockings. You know, the reeds hung on the windows outside, the lights outside, etc. And the reeds, of course, are made of garland, right, which are just these wonderful pine branches that are braided, and they’re braided into a circle. And then everybody knows this I’m sorry to be pedestrian here, but everybody knows this and these reeds, this braided garland, signal to us season is here, right, the season is here for festivities and celebration, and perhaps overeating, maybe not too much, I hope. And it announces for us that something good is happening and I’m grateful to my wife and my daughter for making our house beautiful. And every time I drive up I’m reminded of the warmth of all of that. And yet I’ve been alive 59 years and I realize you know, as these, you know this garland and these lights announce festivities. There are some of us for whom this season is hard. We are mourning, we are grieving, both at home and personally, and abroad. You know, we are bombarded by images of mourning and grief and depression, and so I just want to account for that. I want to care for people as Isaiah is caring for people, as God announces God’s good news through the mouth of Isaiah and the pen of Isaiah. On the way to this good news, you know, god is careful to account for the fact that there are some of us who are sitting in ashes and that’s that ancient way to mourn that things have been burnt down and there’s been great loss and tragedy. And God says I’ll redeem that, I’ll give you a crown, I’ll give you garland for your ashes.
Melissa Rau: 4:23
So there’s clearly a strong message of hope in not just this passage of Isaiah, but in much of the whole book and the entire Bible. Yeah, you note that not everyone loves the holiday season, not just because it’s the holiday season, but some people are going through some real things in life. I’m really interested in what you had to say about the juxtaposition between you know, the empty platitude versus a divine promise. Can you say more about that?
Bishop Rob Wright: 4:52
Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, there’s no loneliness in my experience, my personal experience, frankly speaking there’s no loneliness like the loneliness of you not being able to really say with your full throat all the happy things that you can emotionally or spiritually join those who are singing and celebrating. There’s no loneliness like that. There’s a real emptiness there, and so what I want to say that Isaiah does, at least for me, is that he accounts for people like me in seasons like that. And so what I would say to people is that you know, god sees your pain, you know, and that helps to mitigate the loneliness, I think, is to know that I have a companion that loves me and who sees me, and so much of life and so much of feeling validated, right and affirmed and accounted for is being seen. So, of all the things Isaiah could just sort of, you know, clicked off, he sees those of us who, from time to time, during these festive seasons, are sitting in ashes, are dealing with hard things the loss of loved ones, the disintegration of relationships, economic hard times and so on and so on depression, malaise of one sort or the other, or, you know, an insidious kind of numbness that doesn’t allow us to feel anything because we’re so terribly overwhelmed. What I like about God is is that God is not full of platitudes, but God has promises, right. So God is certain of God’s power. That’s what I like about that. God doesn’t have to issue platitudes and sort of hope for the best. God says look, I’m the God of reversal, I’m the God who created the universe. I know what I’m doing and if you’ll stick with me, right, my promise to you is this gift me, gift me your grief and watch me work. And I I think that’s a promise and that’s not a platitude. And we all know that. We’ve all made sort of well intentioned platitudes and they have virtually no weight. But a promise has a different kind of weight. A promise is really what the psalmist says taste and see that the Lord is good. And so if I’ve got grief now, I know where to take it. Now let me just hurry up and say that does not just mean sitting on your couch talking. You know talking to God. It means grief counselors, it means pastoral care. It means a lunch with a friend where you can cry and tell your real stuff to. It means all those things God uses all those levers right to give us that crown that replaces our ashes, and so that’s what we’re really commending here. God is a process, god. God is not, as I’ve said a thousand times, god is not a microwave popcorn. God, and sometimes, you know, a replacement for our ashes in our times of grief just means somebody is right alongside of me and who’s helping me carry the weight of my grief. I’m not bearing it alone.
Melissa Rau: 8:02
I love that and we’re going to be right back after a short break.
Bishop Rob Wright: 8:06
Hi listeners, thank you for listening to Four People, a space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Robbright. And now back to Four People.
Melissa Rau: 8:23
Welcome back to Four People. Bishop, before we broke, you highlighted that God is a process God, and I’m painfully aware of the idea of that disorientation when people are, you know, feeling down, feeling blue, feeling isolated, feeling alone. Part of the process is coming out of it right, and sometimes it takes other people to pull people up. Or sometimes it takes a decision for someone to say, ok, I’m done with this now and I need to get out of it and turn back right. I don’t know. I feel like sometimes we’re just going through the motions without considering what everything means for us. So how would you console those faithful people or people who recognize this down and out in people? They love to come alongside those folks and be a part of the process?
Bishop Rob Wright: 9:22
Yeah, I mean, I think. I mean, you know, there’s no cookie cutter is what I would say, and I think that we’re all sort of, each of us, fearfully and wonderfully made, as scripture says. We’re all sort of unique to God. God, sort of, kill your treasure, each of us. And so there’s no cookie cutter. But I know that it usually involves finding a space for us to be able to tell our real experience, and so that’s why platitudes are not really in order. What is in order is listening, ears Right, and so much gets communicated by a touch and by a space, and sometimes the space that some of the people who are mourning and grieving need is just a space where they don’t have to be obsessed with the bad thing or the tragic thing that’s happening in their life, and so sometimes it’s just to go and do something with people right, with very little talking until they’re ready to talk. Sometimes it’s just a, it’s a commitment to be with right, and the being with is not just sort of this sort of a lightweight, sort of well, I don’t know what to do, so I’ll be with, but it’s a purposeful be with. I am with you, I am here with you and over, you know iced tea whenever you’re ready. I can hear, right. I think that’s one way to be with. I think the other way to be with is is that the way in which scripture points us to all the time, which is, is that part of the process is for me to do really hard work in grief, and that is to de-center my grief for just a while, right? And so, as I am blue, as I am mourning, as I am grieving, and all that is legitimate, who else is in need this season? How might I be a blessing, even as I am struggling this season? I mean, this is, you know, this is the 501 work of spiritual maturity now. So I’m catching hell in my life right now and I know that and that’s legitimate, and I’m processing that and I’m giving that to God and I’m doing all those other things. Now, as this is unfolding, right, what can I be doing? I think that the worst thing we can be doing is to be obsessed by our mourning and grief. We’ve got to say to ourselves okay, things are pretty bad in this category of my life now, but I’m not completely undone here. I am a resourceful person. I have agency. God has given me gifts. How can I apply my gifts? I mean, this is God’s economy, right? So none of us are supposed to be invited into our little little cells where we sort of just are hermetically sealed off from the world. Because our time is hard right now and I hope I’m sounding encouraging, because that’s what I really want to do because God’s process is for us to always be using those things which God has given us, even though we’re in a difficult, difficult season I think that one of the things that helps me an awful lot is to be in touch with people, not that it’s comparative, but to be in touch with people who’ve got it far worse than I have, and then realizing something about my pain relative to other brothers and sisters in pain. You and I are sitting right now in safety in our respective homes having a fairly high brow chat about life. Right and right now. You know, there are children who don’t have the basic necessities, there are mothers who are giving birth in some little corner of squalor, there are people whose bellies are roaring from last night, and so, even though whatever I’m going through is significant and even just bone jarring, I am mindful that I am bit blessed and that I have the gift of safety and clean water and a pantry with food in it. So, even as I’m going through my difficulty, what can I do for somebody else? You know that wonderful song that we sing in church. So forget about yourself and concentrate on him and worship him. Sometimes the way we make our way through grief and mourning is to worship God by decentering ourselves and serving neighbor. Until such time as that we have, you know, sort of the ability to process our pain and, look, both things are true at the same time. I want to emphasize that because I don’t want anybody to hear me say I’m saying, hey, suck it up, because I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that two things are true at the same time. Your pain is difficult, your pain is hard, it’s legitimate and the world has many needs, and so why don’t we, as much as we can, suspend as we are able our sort of the sharp edges of our pain and go out and serve neighbor? Let me say lastly, I remember some years ago that Kobe Bryant God rest his soul was going through a lot of controversy and trouble. He had made some bad choices about how to be a married person and it was all over the media and certainly we understand all of that. And Charles Barkley of all people love Charles Barkley, right, the sage of Alabama. We love Charles Barkley. And Charles Barkley was rumored to have told Kobe Bryant said hey look, man, you have absolutely no control over what the media is going to say about you or your marriage or your infidelity or your bad choices. You have no control over the headlines or Twitter, etc. What you do have control over is, you know, these two halves in this basketball game. So, as much as you can put all that stuff aside legitimate pain, legitimate regret, legitimate grief and the pain he caused his wife and family you can lay that down for these many minutes, right, and you can focus on your job, and your job is to be the best basketball player you can be. Well, I think that brother Barkley was on to something. When I think about my pain, our pain, our mourning, our grief, I think that there is an invitation in God’s process towards healing for us to put ourselves, you know, just down for a second, as painful as things are, and think about the world, because there, I think, is some medicine for us and for our souls.
Melissa Rau: 15:58
I loved your quote. I think you said gift your grief to God, yeah, and watch God work, yeah. I think that’s what you said. I think it’s brilliant, especially when we’re talking about garland, right, right.
Bishop Rob Wright: 16:13
I mean, I think, isn’t this what I want to say is isn’t this the value proposition? Isn’t this God’s value proposition? Is that I can do more with the contours of what it means to be human than you can left to your own devices. Isn’t that God’s you know fundamental value proposition? You go ahead and do grief by yourself, see where it comes out. Give your grief to me and I can show you something. Give your loneliness to yourself. See what happens. Oftentimes it ends up in really sort of anti-social and harmful ways If we just isolate and keep it to ourselves. But give me, god is saying, your loneliness and I can do something with it. And again and again and again, jesus is trying to teach us that if you can sort of give these things, these constituent parts of what it means to be human beings, give it to God. God can do. That’s why I like Saint Paul Infantly more than we can ask or imagine, according to the faith that work in us. That’s God’s value proposition. So give me your grief and watch me give you a garland. Watch me crown you, watch me make that grief that you experience actually something generative that you could never have imagined.
Melissa Rau: 17:31
And thank God for that. Thank God for that right.
Bishop Rob Wright: 17:34
That’s the blessing.
Melissa Rau: 17:35
Bishop, as always. Thank you and thank you, listeners, for listening to Four People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week. Comments and Backgrounds.