Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A New Year


For all intents and purposes, a new year has begun. The longest day and the lowest sun are behind us.

I did go to the Blue Christmas service tonight. It was a disappointment, which was a surprise to me, because the pastor leading it is a skilled and experienced counselor and caregiver. But she rushed headlong into reassurance and hope, and preached a sermon about God's enduring presence.

One first needs to take the time to acknowledge the loss and sadness and the very real experience of God's seeming absence.

And that verse about "all things work for good . . .". Seriously? Let's not use that one with people in so much pain that they are willing to leave their homes a few nights before Christmas to go to a worship service with a group of strangers.

Well. I am going to put that service into the category of "last year."

In my personal last year, I have dealt with the continuing fallout from my son's death by suicide, the very serious health problems of someone else close to me ~ unblogged and unbloggable ~ and my own little cancer scare last month (I'm fine), which caused a couple of blips on my radar screen but, in the face of my son's death, barely registered overall. (Honestly, I am so absorbed by that loss that I'm not sure I would notice if I died myself.) I finished another year of seminary, I more or less finished my training as a spiritual director (still some loose ends to tie up, but the ball's in someone else's court), and started my stint of field education in a church.

I'm not doing much of a job of studying for the ordination exams, which is unlike me, but I don't feel terribly motivated. What seemed so clear two years ago now so ~ isn't. It wouldn't be a terrible thing to fail one or more of the exams next month, which would push my whole process into next fall and give me some space. I'm very glad to have gone back to seminary when I did, and to have spent this time learning with my friends there, but I'm not wanting to feel pressure toward the next thing, whatever it is.

I have come to one new realization over the past few days, and perhaps it means that my "ministerial voice," which has gone underground since Josh died, is beginning to re-emerge as something new. What I have come to understand is that I have a whole new freedom to listen and to speak to loss ~ partly because I have been to a very scary and seldom-traveled place, partly because I know how isolated and in need of companionship people in that place are, and partly because it has stripped away whatever fear I had about looking into the face of death and of terrible, terrible sorrow, and of saying what I see.

It's an odd place in which to find hope for my future.

(Image: Here.)

8 comments:

Teri said...

someone seriously used the "all things work together for good" verse at a Blue Christmas/Longest Night service? I basically refuse to use it...ever...especially not there. I want to believe it, but most of the time my desire is not strong enough to override my reality.

I will say that this is the first time I've noticed you using your son's name on this blog. And, as one who struggles with a family who won't mention my mother's name anymore (four years now, and no use of her name at all...sigh), I'm glad to see that.

I hope your next year is filled with things as yet unimaginable, and also filled with the voice of One calling out in your wilderness. may there be something like peace.

Stratoz said...

you know me, I love hope. I do not dig reassurance. Maybe that is why I love hope. and though there are times I can't imagine things getting worse, I can't guarantee it. so I try to be filled with hope. that is my sermon and I'm sticking to it, for now.

texsis said...

I find that if someone has not experienced this loss, this emptiness,this heartache they do not know how to address it and often say dismissive things. They do not realize a bandaid does nothing to help this hurt.

The Lord be with you.

Purple said...

Have you read Jean Stairs "Listening for the Soul"? Lots of excellent stuff in there, but a short section on death and grief is quite good. How as a society we are so uncomfortable with death we rush right through it.

You have noticed a shift in yourself...and I notice it in your writing. What tremendous depth you are finding...a new voice emerging/re-emgerging. And that new voice does not take away Josh's death or the ramifications...but it includes them and embraces them.

Magdalene6127 said...

I'm so sorry that service was a disappointment. I think that scripture choice was unfortunate. I would never say that to someone in the midst of a loss. I might say it to myself, carefully, with some measure of hope... but I don't get to say it to anyone else. The expception is when a family asks for it directly for a funeral. They have that right.

Peace, friend.

Carol said...

So glad you're using your new voice and that you're feeling hopeful as the new year approaches. Healing hugs and prayers continue to flow your way.

Karen said...

It was a hell of a year for you. Life is so unfair and cruel. Pain and more pain. Blue Christmas is a new idea to me and I like it. Seems more appropriate than any other now. How many Blue Christmases there will be remains to be seen. But I hope there is more than that ahead for you and yours. And me, too.

Anonymous said...

A Leaf of Hope
Posted: 21 Dec 2009 10:01 PM PST
“When the dove returned to [Noah] in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Genesis 8:11 NIV
An olive leaf. Noah would have been happy to have the bird but to have the leaf! This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird had brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what a hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood…
Don’t we love the olive leaves of life? “It appears the cancer may be in remission.” “I can help you with those finances.” “We’ll get through this together.”
What’s more, don’t we love the doves that bring them? When the father walks his son through his first broken heart, he gives him an olive leaf. When the wife of many years consoles the wife of a few months, when she tells her that conflicts come and all husbands are moody and these storms pass, you know what she is doing? She is giving an olive leaf. Max Lucado
Thank you for all the leaves I've gotten from you through your blogs.
May the hope of the season fill you with peace.
April