-I go to my appointment, and the pipe shop that has been on the opposite corner for as long as I can remember is boarded up and fenced in.
-The sandwich place next to the coffee shop has gone out of business, and the department store I counted on has moved to another mall.
Much worse then all of these are the images of destruction by mudslides of parts of the sacred retreat center where I have gone so many years on pilgrimage. I grieve for what was, what was dear and holy.
And since the festival season, there have been so many losses: death of a colleague, a neighbor, the spouse of a college friend, a former parishoner.
And the world, the nation! How hard to fathom what they seem to have come to!
Changes, changes changes! it’s been said that we as humans experience all change as loss. And I am feeling it this January! With each medical appointment, I feel the loss of what I used to be. With each encounter in the faith community, I am aware that we are in liminal place with unclear agendas and sensibilities. With each report on the news, I see time-held axioms of thought and behavior disappear, some for the worse, and irreparable loss of public lands, public generosity and public civility.
So I am pressed to know how to navigate each day when there are so many variables before me. I find that I need to fall back on some organic principles of Spirit with more attention and intention in these days:
–Give my grief all of its due, but only its due. Etty Hillesum challenges us to remember that it is a “spiritual bypass” to go straight to counting blessings when we have not grieved the loss. I mourn the loss of people and places that gave me life and love. I remember wistfully the ways and means of comfort and compassion I have experienced. I lament the destruction that lays waste our planet and that thoughtlessly removes the beautiful and the good. I cling to the Word that my tears are precious to the Holy One.
–Give thanks for what is blossoming and healing. My border of white irises has not ceased to be in bloom, one plant after another, since early November. There is a new one every morning. And God’s mercies are new every morning, if I am paying attention. Random and intentional acts of kindness still abound. Fred Rogers has reminded us that in times of catastrophe, we are to look for the helpers to see the presence of the Holy One. They are everywhere–the ones who welcome the displaced, the ones who give rides, the ones who provide food, the ones who go more than one extra mile, but tens and hundreds of extra steps to care for others, those who give generously over and over for the healing and preservation of the world and its fragile ones.
–Give room for the Light to shine in. If I focus only on the reports of doom and gloom, of murder and mayhem, my own heart gets clouded, or “rubbled over”, as Jurgen Moltmann says. So I need to keep practice looking for the “cracks when the Light gets in” and make them a little wider. I celebrate the one who sat by the bedside of the dying one, so she could go in peace. I delight in the one who has learned to turn away anger with a soft answer. I rejoice in those who at great cost give themselves to generosity and thoughtfulness. And I cheer for those who are willing to speak truth to power, to affirm the good and call out the evil when it appears.
Things will change, they always have. In this world many institutions, places I hold sacred, precious relationships will fade and decay. However, as long as I have life and breath, I need to remain one who hopes, who engenders hope in others, and celebrates the reality that with the Holy One there are no final defeats.
Change and decay in all around I see/ O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Amen, my friend. Amen. Immaculate Heart is ‘pristine.’ The chapel is damaged halfway up the walls, but the light shines through that window still! We have months of work and tears ahead of us, but we are looking, looking, looking for the light. Be well — as well as these aging bodies will allow — and thank you for these good and lovely words.
We read Etty’s book in a class at the GTU called “Transitions and Transformations. I missed the “spiritual bypass” metaphor but it is so true.
I am preaching Jonah this week and your reflection touches on part of where I am going. How Jonah wanted only to see what he wanted to see and missed the grace and mercy of God which was extended even to him in his anger and wrath.
Elizabeth Nordquist said:
Spiritual bypass is a tern I just learned this year, apparently familiar in some Buddhist traditions. It seems very self descriptive to me. Important learning for me!