I got a Facebook message from my father a few days ago, reminding me that I have not posted for quite a while on this blog. Yes, he does read what I write. Yes, he is my father and one who continues to nurture my person into being-even with me in the early part of the 4th decade of my life. The grace is that as we have talked these past years, I can also recognize my father as a colleague. In ministry and in life. He is a former Senior Warden who saw his parish through a tough season of transition. I am a parish priest who has served as one in the role he was bound to support. What a gift, to find oneself talking to a parent not only as child but also as one who is able to offer perspective on a place of leadership when the two come from very different perspectives. I chalk that up to his intelligence (Dad, cover your eyes) and grace, more from my skill in life. What I have failed to learn from him would fill more books and bins than what I chose to absorb while he was rearing me alongside mom, sis and all the rest. Still, it is time to write, and I appreciate him getting me off the mark and into a return to this (that I hope will be) daily discipline.
What to say to begin, again?
I have been wandering around of late in my interior landscape. A lot is happening in my life, in my parish and in my relationship with God. After all the changes, chances and trials of the past few years, you would think that once things around us calm down that we would calm down, right? I find the opposite to be true: when life around me calms a bit, that is when my own interior stuff churns up like crazy. At the deepest levels and in my most personal relationships, I am experiencing "holy upheval." Things can't just slip back into what they were before. Life is going to be different now, God seems to say, and it is time to come to terms with what that will look like in your life, your relationships and your ministry to the people of the Church.
OK, I can go with that? So what happens next?
Hard to define, but I am getting a sense of what it MIGHT look like. As we all watch the horror and loss that have come in the aftermath of the great earthquake in Haiti, I am starting to see these moments of transition in life, relationship and "sense of place" as being something akin to what happens in the wake of a tremor in our interior lives and family systems. The carnage about me is a fraction of what people are dealing with in Haiti, and I can only offer the dimmest of resonances in that my suffering (even the suffering I cause in the people around me) is like a drop in a lake compared to the devastation that quake has left...but for now, give me the grace of accepting this musing:
I am pastor to a family dealing with the loss of a loved one. As that person has left the family, there has been a dramatic and powerful shuffling of the relationships among siblings, in-laws, grandchildren and extended family. What was once could be seen as a sort of arimistice has devolved with the absence of the matriarch. Now it is time for people to figure out who they really want to be in relationship with, and with whom they HAVE to be in relationship to, etc. Really, I have seen this happen again and again in most human systems of relationship. It is what happens when a pastor leaves a congregation. It is what happens when a teacher leaves a class. It is what happens when the town pharmacist decides to retire and people are forced to seek their medicines from someone they don't know in the next town over. It happens all the time. These are the little earthquakes of our lives, and even a little earthquake will shake us up something awe-full.
That would be fine, really, if it were just one big shock...but the reality is that the "BIG SHOCK" is seldom either the first, or the last time that the sacred ground around us rocks and heaves in relationship to any event or transition in relationship. Even as one quake ends, the concern is born for the after-shocks that are bound to follow. One after another. In their own time.
Of course, I am sure that God-seeing us all from Eternity's throne-can note the patterns and celebrate our ultimate ability to prevail in faith through and over all things...but for now as we struggle to pull the pieces back together after our own personal quake experiences it is up to us to attempt to respond with faith, with hope and with resolve that though the ground shakes (either proverbailly or otherwise) we will find the power in Jesus Christ to survivie, thrive and then strive to work for justice and peace.
People do the most extraordinary things, both good and bad, when the earth turns over. What defines us as people is ultimately how we recognize both our frailty and our strength in responding to the aftermath. I pray that as the months unfold and new chapters begin for all of us in this life we will find the strength to rise to the challenge of each new spiritual earthquake and offer to God thanks that even from the ugliest moments grace can arise.