Treasure Valley Prays

“…a soul on the cusp of the earth.”

comforting man in hosptital bed

“…a soul on the cusp of the earth.”                                                            

Theologian and Pastor, Kirianne Weaver uses this phrase in a short but powerful reflection she wrote describing an event in her life.  I warn you it is a bit stark and perhaps should have one of those alerts they give on television to make the viewer aware of the content that follows.

While in college Kirianne had stayed up until about 3:00 a.m. talking with her roommate, then decided to journal for a bit at her desk.  At about 4:00 a.m. she decided to take a walk to clear her head of the morning’s thoughts and feelings.  As she walked, she remembers, “a pair of brakes screamed and were swallowed by a tree.”  She describes the dreadful scene of two horribly injured men, especially the driver who had been ejected from the car and who lay bleeding profusely.  “I knelt next to him, holding him on his side, and staring at this figure which I was not sure was still human.  The figure opened his eyes.  It didn’t look at me.  It didn’t seem to be looking at anything…but somehow for a moment this night became real.  This figure was a soul on the cusp of the earth.”  Her reflection goes on the ponder what kept her up till that hour, and near the scene of the accident, and what called her to attend to this man’s last breaths.

I confess that this story written so many years ago haunts me still and draws me into interesting places within myself—within my own soul.  My first reaction was, “Yes!”  That is what we as people of faith are about.  Each in our own way contribute to being present to souls on the cusp of the earth.  Perhaps some souls are closer to the cusp than others.  That was certainly the challenge of my forty years of ministry as a hospital and hospice chaplain—ministering to those who were dying and their loved ones—those facing surgery and/or endless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapies, or those with chronic diseases that would simply not go away.  I suspect that all those who came to the hospital, regardless of their affliction were closer to that edge than I could imagine—just by being ill and afflicted.

As people of faith, I suspect that we all come to problems, places, events and people where we are called to be present with them in the real aspects of life.  And to be truly present in and with them, we must go in the middle of their “night where it is often cold and scary” as Weaver reflects, and where it is a personal, emotional, and spiritual challenge to hold them—where faith and service become real.

Weaver’s use of the word “soul” has also a hook for me.  We are each more than a sum of our physical parts.  We are more than mere bodies controlled by a brain.  Our bodies give form to our being and our brains give us the amazing power to think, to feel, to reason, but it is that elusive thing called “soul” or “spirit” that completes us and make us whole.  In whatever circumstances we meet another person, they are “souls” who come to us. Regardless of instances in which these souls come into our lives, they may draw us to the cusp of the earth.  However long or short their presence may be with us, they enliven within us the courage, endurance and faith of the human spirit. 

I was often asked as an acute care chaplain how I “could do this work?”  I did it because I loved the people and relationships to which my ministry called me.  I loved it because each day I learned a little more about the greatness of the human spirit. I learned in so many circumstances and in such a variety of ways not to fear traveling with souls on the cusp of the earth. I must admit that I would often answer that question with, “It has its days!” But what kept me in the ministry was that I found an indwelling where souls met at the deepest level and nourished one another to life…whether here on earth or beyond the cusp of this mortal being.

All this is to say, may you find opportunities to meet those around you—whether for a moment you are at such a cusp—and need the love a support of others, or whether another person comes into your life who is on such a cusp.  Either way, may you meet another person who brings to you the reality of faith, the endurance of spirit and the love of God—embodied in and with another soul who holds you for just that moment.  Blessings!

*Kirianne Elisabeth Weaver is Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Ithica, N.Y. and a contributing faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary.  

Kent Schaufelberger

Kent Schaufelberger

MDiv, Retired Chaplain, ACPE Certified Educator

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Penelope Smith

    Thanks, Kent. A good reminder that, although it takes a huge amount of energy to “be present” to others, this is one of the opportunities to be part of holy moments, to embody Christ to others.

  2. Keith Hammer

    Thank you Kent! I am moved by your testimony of what your calling to your ministry as a chaplain means to you. I also like how your relate it to all of our human/faith journeys as we encounter each other as “souls”/”spirits” “that complete us and make us whole.” Thank you for encouraging us to be present with each other in those moments where each of us is/becomes “a soul on the cusp of the earth.”

Leave a comment