Jim was a dear friend. We shared our lives together; stayed in his home in the mountains, played golf together, talked about our growing up on a farm — his here in Florida, mine in Ohio. Jim died this past Saturday. It was sudden and shocking. He had lived a good life, with a strong faith and generous spirit.
When I got to their house, his beloved Connie met me at the door, tears filling her eyes, and these words: “It is well with my soul…the rest of me is a total mess, but it is well with my soul.”
If the reality of faith in the midst of tragedy has ever been more profoundly articulated, I don’t know what it is. Their strong faith in the One who is the Resurrection and the Life gave a peace and grounding that nothing could shake. It is well with her soul, as she knew it was with Jim’s.
At the same time, everything, everything else was a total mess. For 43 years Jim was her closest friend, confidante, lover, and soul mate. Now he was gone. The shadow of death had crept over their lives and into their home and into every corner of their existence. It was awful.
And yet, the deeper truth: it is well with her soul. For at the center of her being was the living Christ around whom the center does indeed hold.
This Advent season we will read Scripture passages about the Light that shines in the darkness. Both are real. Oh my, the darkness of this weary world is much too real. (Thank God for Pope Francis and his beautiful, relentless call for peace, for the proponents of Christianity and Islam to join voices in proclaiming the best, the peace advocating aspects of their respective faiths, as he did on his recent trip to Turkey. And oh, yes, thank God for the beautiful humility he showed in asking the leader of the Orthodox Church to bless him, thus beginning a healing of the breach that goes back to the 11th century!)
As real as the darkness is, the Light of the Christ Child, is stronger still, and the darkness cannot and will not overcome the light of Christ. It is still and always “well with my soul.”
If Connie can proclaim that in her moment of greatest loss, then so shall all of God’s people in the midst of the darkness of this world. And the wonder of wonders is that this “wellness with our souls” shall spread, bringing hope and healing and peace to our troubled world, for the wellness of one’s soul is more contagious than the darkness of any night.