April 30, 2014
The Good, the Bad, the Serving
RIP John Servati
Monday a young man, a student at the University of Alabama, died. A stellar athlete and good friend liked by most, he died holding up a retaining wall in the basement of his rented college house while his girlfriend escaped. They had sought refuge in the basement of the home just as all the experts advise. Tuscaloosa had suffered tragic and extensive damages three years and one day earlier. Every student and resident in the town knew what to do in case of a tornado and this young man and his girlfriend did just what they should have done. Maybe the town needs stricter and more frequent inspection of rental properties. Maybe the homeowner needed better waterproofing for the basement of better drainage of the yard around the home’s foundation. One fact is certain: Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Sometimes people we thought were good do bad things. No one is perfect, in spite of our expectations. We are always quick to admit we are human and along with that sometimes comes an assumption that our actions will be excused or forgiven because we are human. How often do we apply that to others? Do we give them that same “pass” or are we quick to judge? How exactly do we see others? “Jehovah sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). How do we serve each other by offering mercy?
Man is an animal that likes logic and rational behavior. We like to think every problem has an answer and that we, as animals at the top of the evolutionary ladder, can determine a working solution. We like to think we know a great deal, especially about each other. In 1 Corinthians 2:11, Paul admonishes that no one can really know the mind of another. He reminds his audience that everyone has secret places, secret hopes, secret fears within them. He uses that fact to illustrate that since we cannot know everything about each other, we certainly cannot begin to know everything about God. I would add that we cannot know everything about life.
Paul is trying to explain that the wisdom God has, the purpose of the Holy Spirit, is to help us live. While this passage centers more on the Holy Spirit and that is what Pentecost is all about and we are not yet there on the Christian calendar, the metaphor is a good one we can all use, regardless of religion or spirituality. The Christian faith is based upon a deity that serves man, not the other way around.
Man has evolved, whether you believe he did so walking out of the Garden of Eden or crawling out of the ocean. We are not as we once were. If you are reading this, then you were born from a human, regardless of past lives or forms. You are now human; you now live. Paul’s admonition applies to all of us. Like all scripture, it came to us through many variations and translations and even today, disagreement exists over which words might have actually been written. His basic message remains for us to hear, though. Our knowledge of God must always be relative, not absolute. It is not possible to measure the arm of God with the finger of man.
Good things happen to undeserving people and bad things happen that are undeserved to good people. None of us can be absolute about our tomorrow here on this planet. We may plan for it, prepare for it, and do all the right things to make it successful. All we can do is live with mercy and pray for mercy. Christian doctrine encourages a way to do this is by serving others, putting others first. So do many other spiritualities.
On a Monday evening, possibly discussing the recent swim meet between two of the sport’s greatest, a young man prepared for the end of the semester. An honor student in finance, as his hometown in a neighboring state was being devastated by tornadoes, John Servati did all the right things. He showed mercy and his legacy is one of grace. While his parents and two sisters will someday take pride in his multiple medals and record-setting swims, right now they are able to take comfort that he died living his faith, being as successful a human as is possible.
None of us live in a perfect world basking in perpetual sunshine. That’s a good thing because the star we call the sun could not provide for us what we need without the precious water which gives us life. When the clouds of our necessary water gather, when those clouds turn stormy as life often does, as the floods of reality of our own humanness threaten to overwhelm us, we need to remember to have mercy and to ask for mercy – from ourselves, our neighbors and fellow residents, and from our Creator or Spirit Guide. We also need to show mercy so that we can share the grace of living a spirit-filled life. We need to see with our hearts and act in faith. We need to learn from a twenty-one year old young man who, in his last moments, turned the bad into good and lived a most successful life, though all too brief.
The Latin word “servatus” means saved or kept. May God have mercy to help us all be as brave, as successful, as a loving servant to each other, following the example of John Servati.