Nurturing night vision this advent...

With the dawning of each Advent season over the years, I am often surprised by the joys and sorrows that have filled my previous days. Last year began with the nightmare of Newtown while we were on retreat in Cambridge and the shadow of that tragedy has haunted me all year long.  I wasn't aware of how deep this grief was, however, until I got the news that Michael Daniels and Lou Reed had both died in October. Not only did I love both these men in vastly different ways, but my stunned shock tore the scab off of a deeper and more costly grief that has been active within me all year long albeit just below the surface.

Much of the year I have felt like these words from Jan Richardson:

I will never return
to my original landscape,
I know;
the currents forever change
the lay of my land,
and the tides ever shift
my bones.

But for a moment, God,
gather up
the water-soaked skirts
you drag across my terrain,
and let me see
the curves of my soul
undisturbed by the torrents
that wash through my days.

Some of the people I love and care for the most have had - or are having - their own dark nights of the soul this year.  And who knows why? Who knows what was the trigger?  Who knows what it will reveal? All we know is that this darkness can deepen our trust in God beyond all feelings - and that it won't last forever.  Small consolation while in the midst of such aching emptiness, I know, but still the truth.  John's gospel gets it right:  the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

At the same time, this year has been filled with wonderful surprises that were not only unexpected but totally undeserved. Our salty, needy and oh so special puppy, Lucie, is one such blessing for me.  Who could have predicted she would capture my heart so thoroughly?  Every day, no matter how grim, she evokes laughter and helps me take myself a little less seriously. Every day she offers me a chance to express a little bit more compassion than I might ordinarily muster. 

The greatest blessing, of course, came with the birth of our grandson Louis (who will be here next weekend for a blessing ceremony!)  What a trip and surprise he has been to us all on so many levels.  And the joy he brings his parents is a treasure beyond words.  The loves of my life are clearly undeserved surprises - from Dianne to Jesse and Michal and more - I am surrounded by people of wisdom, beauty and tenderness. Again, Richardson's words give shape and form to my reality:
Forgive us, God,
when we live our lives
within the lines,
when we say
this is the shape of our work,
this is the boundary of our habitation,
these are the limits to our love,
these are the lines of our vision,
these, and none other.

Draw us beyond our patterns
into yours:
shifting, moving,
curving, spiraling,
many-colored, ever-changing,
stretching, pushing,
challenging, renaming,
unsettling, disturbing,
casting forth,
and welcoming home.

As I celebrated Eucharist at worship this morning, I was aware of many of Richardson's words.  I know most of the 80+ people who came forward to receive the bread.  And as I spoke their names and shared with them the sacred loaf, I was keenly aware how much more we share:  blessings, fears, grief, grace and faith.  Afterwards, one young woman told me about her calling to become a teacher.  She has been with us for the past few weeks and seems to resonate with what's going on. It was sweet to hear her journey from tutoring to teaching children with deep needs.

When she finished, her beloved said, "I have one more question. It's ok if she comes forward for communion, isn't it?"  The look on her face became anxious. "I don't want to do anything wrong," she said, "I know I'm not a member..." How many times have I actually wept upon hearing those words?  So I replied simply, "You can't do anything wrong by coming to the Lord's table, ok? You are always welcome here... so please know there is always a place for you at this feast."  The tension fell from her face, her eyes started to tear and she touched my hand while silently mouthing the words "thank you."  And then she left.

There is not much most of us can do to ease the pain of our lives except share it and honor it.  Today I give thanks to God that Advent is a season where I am encouraged to be surprised again by both the joys and sorrows of our lives - so that I can be tender with them all.



Peter said…
Thank you for yet another door open to one in need.

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