Gathering

The Kemper Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin was alight with candles and music and bells last Saturday as I sat in the Easter Vigil service with Light of Christ Anglican Church. After the final reading, “The Gathering of God’s People,” (Zephaniah 3:12-20), we sang together.

We will feast in the house of Zion.
We will sing with our hearts restored.
He has done great things, we will say together.
We will feast and weep no more.

“We Will Feast in the House of Zion”
by Sandra McCracken and Joshua Moore

I closed my eyes and began to cry. I pictured myself alone in the midst of a broken stone building, crumbled all around me. I was sad and as broken as the rubble.

I looked to my left and my right; I knew it was time to rebuild. I began by lifting a stone and setting it back in place. I lifted another. Then I stopped.

There were too many. They were too heavy. I sat back down in the middle of the ruins and began to cry.

not alone-s

As my tears fell, I became aware of people gathering beside me. They started picking up stones, rebuilding with me, doing for me what I couldn’t do on my own.

I cried for a while. I told God, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard!”

He did not say I didn’t have to, only, “You are not alone.”

Burning and Being Afraid

Though I hesitate to even write this down, much less post it in a public space, I believe there is something important in this meandering mess of soft-focus snapshots my brain is trying to express. While I may be coming at these ideas from a different perspective than most, I hope I don’t offend anyone so much that we can’t make it to the end of the rabbit trail together. Deep breath. Shameless honesty.

I have zero tears to shed right now over the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Let me assure you, somewhere, in a distant space inside my head, I can acknowledge the sadness other people have expressed over the destruction of such a beautiful old sacred space. At the same time, as I scroll past post after post in my Facebook feed and so many friends share their grief in status updates describing their tears, I feel a bit lost.

Though I believe I ought to know better than to actually ask why, a part of me still wonders. Am I completely out of touch with the collective reality of feeling connected to this historic landmark? Did I miss something?

Or maybe, perhaps, could it be that this is one of those touchstone events that opens up the doors to grief that would otherwise be shuttered away in the dark? Could some of those tears have been gathering force days, weeks, months, years inside a life, yet tacit community standards don’t allow for its public expression?

In the course of daily life, if we’re paying attention, don’t we come upon beautiful things burning down with some regularity? My son came to tell me he tried to make a new friend, but the other child didn’t want to play with him. One of our favorite local businesses wasn’t able to convert enough sales to keep their doors open. A friend is sporting bruises again from her ongoing battle with a seizure disorder. There was another school shooting, another racially motivated attack, another amazing being created in the image of God abused.

survive the drowning-s

Yet, somehow, we don’t or we can’t or we just feel we shouldn’t cry about all those things. Or maybe, we’re afraid. Maybe, so many times have we seen beauty going up in flames, we’ve begun to fear letting any tears fall will cause an unstoppable flood coursing down our faces, forming such great pools of sadness that none can survive the drowning.

I am afraid.

I’m afraid the pain will prove too much. I’m afraid, if I let go of this mask of composure I work so hard to hold up to my face, I’ll lose everything. I’m afraid if I ask the questions I really want to ask, I’ll discover I don’t actually like the answers very much.

Because, what if in all this grief, all this pain, all this heartrending sadness there is something I can do? What if I add my thimbleful of water to put out just one tongue of flame? What if, should I choose to reach out, to touch someone else, to reflect just one beam of light into the darkness, that you may be encouraged to do so as well?

What if Marianne Williamson was absolutely on to something when she said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”? Because, if I have the power to highlight beauty in just one situation in one person’s life, what happens if I chose not to shine?

Could it be the bravest act of all is simply to be yourself? To open your heart and your life to let someone else in? To stop pretending we have it all together and we don’t really need one another and we can do it all on our own?

There is something about tragedy that opens our eyes to the truth that we can’t do it all on our own. We do really need one another. Despite all our pretense, we don’t have it all together.

Please, don’t misunderstand me; I am not intending to lead a guided guilt trip. I pray that reading my disjointed thoughts and questions and concerns has not stirred up a shame storm that is even now beating down in stinging drops on your neck. Because while we all need one another, we also all need to recognize our own limitations.

I can’t put out the flames of a whole cathedral with the one bucket of water I carry. No matter how much I may want to solve all the problems and save all the children, I can’t do it. I don’t even know where all the problems lie or who all the children are. I have only a tiny little platform to offer my own questioning answers. I can’t claim the wisdom of the ages, only what I have seen and thought and felt myself and the truths of experiences others have been willing to share with me. What little I have, I’m sharing with you. I’ll leave you with a final question, one I want to ask myself more often.

Who stands before you waiting to catch a glimpse of the beauty you hide inside yourself?

Ordinary

Not living
As I wish I were
The role I play
Looks better in words
Than on the stage
Of ordinary life
Trying
Failing
Facing my fears
Again
Falling
So far short
Of where
How
Who
I want to be

In dreams
I am brave
I am strong
I am not afraid
But reality is
No dream
Nightmare
May be closer
But still
Not
Quite right

Ordinary time
In liturgical years
The pace of days
After days
After days
Is holy
A sacred calling
To breathe
In
Out
One step at a time
Daily prayer
Praise
Worship
Celebration
Life
Love
Communion

For what are we
Here
But to live
Life together
Loving
Each
Every
All
Friends
Neighbors
Enemies

A difficult calling
To quiet
My heart
To listen
To Love
To live
By grace
Through faith
As a gift
A treasure
A blessing
To receive
This gift
And somehow
By giving
Receive
All over again

Love grows
All
Every
Each time
We give
By faith
Not my own
Yet mine
By grace
Greater than
Trying
Failing
Facing my fears
Again
Falling
So far short
Of where
How
Who
I want to be

ordinary-s

Into this space
Of ordinary
Emptiness
Love speaks
Quietly
Enough
Beloved
Rest

Beyond All Measure

Last fall was a beastly season for my family. Headaches that turned out to be a tumor, brain surgery, recovery, radiation therapy, being four hours from home for ten weeks (except for all the Wednesdays and Thursdays I drove back and forth with the kids as we tried to keep them as involved as possible in their normal activities), the death of a dear friend, catching a nasty virus that left me completely wiped out for nearly three weeks, not to mention all the emotions. In the middle of being sick, I was journaling through my anxiety one day and this is what I wrote.

I feel like I’m failing miserably and being judged harshly for it.

I’m so afraid I’m doing it all wrong.

And I don’t know how to do it right.

And I don’t have the stamina or the fortitude or whatever it is I need and so I fail and I fail and I fail again.

I’m not here for Adam, I’m not here for the kids, I can’t even manage to be here for me, to take care of myself enough to stay healthy. I’m completely exhausted. I have nothing left to give. I can’t do anything for anyone and all I am is this big giant albatross, a huge burden on them at a time when they all most need someone to help carry their burdens, not add to them.

just as you are-s

God, I don’t deserve to have anybody love me. All I’m doing is making their lives more difficult. Why would You put me here? Why do I have this husband and these kids when I can’t possibly make their lives better, when all I can do is demand from them more than they can give me because none of us has enough?

The only thing I have in abundance right now is germy, snotty used tissues. I don’t think this is the abundant life You had in mind.

My precious, precious daughter, you have no idea how much I love you.

You’re right. I don’t. All I can imagine right now is that You’re completely fed up with my failures and my whining and my inability to get even the simplest tasks completed properly.

I have not had enough of you, My beloved. I adore you.

Why? Why do You have any interest in me at all? I’m a complete and utter mess. I can’t make You proud of my accomplishments. I can’t amaze You with my beauty or artistic flair. All I can do is collapse at Your feet and drip snot all over Your toes because I can’t do anything right.

I need you to listen, My child, and listen well. What I’m about to tell you is very important.

Okay.

You are the most amazing and incredible person. You are the only one of you I have ever created and all I have ever, will ever ask of you is to be the beloved child I made you to be.

Your job is not to run the world, My dear. That is My job. You aren’t in charge. No one has asked you to control it all. That’s never been on your plate.

Of course you can’t do it all. You were never meant to. Come to me, beloved one. Rest your weary head in My lap. Let Me calm your anxious heart. Listen to the words you long to hear above all others.

I love you. Just as you are, in your fears and your failures, you are loved beyond all measure.

It is not your job to heal your husband. It is not your job to force good behavior from your children. It is not your job to make sure everyone and everything is okay. It’s okay not to be okay. I am here. I am the One who makes it okay. I am the Redeemer of all things. I am the Lord your healer. I am the Savior. Not you.

Now stop beating yourself up for not being God. The position has already been filled. Stop worrying about what you think other people want from you. Come to Me, precious child. Let Me give you rest. Let Me love you simply for who you are. Stop trying to make Me proud, My dear. I could not be more proud of you. My heart cannot hold more love for you. You have nothing to prove. You are Mine and you will always be enough.