My life since moving to Vancouver has been a whirlwind of emotion, fantasy, grief, sadness, loneliness, stress, expectation, assumption, and probably a few more words that all sum up to my feeling a bit crazy and not like myself at all. I'm drawn to the dramatic, the fraught. I've recognized lately just how tight I hold my shoulders and how often my fists are clenched. In that moment where I make a conscious effort to drop my shoulders and release my fingers, I breathe. It's not a loud breath, but I can hear it inside myself. So you can imagine how fitting I found Rumi's words to be this morning. Open. Closed. Tight. Relaxed.
LETTING GO GIVES US FREEDOM, AND FREEDOM IS THE ONLY CONDITION FOR HAPPINESS. IF, IN OUR HEART, WE STILL CLING TO ANYTHING - ANGER, ANXIETY, OR POSSESSIONS - WE CANNOT BE FREE. ― THÍCH NHẤT HẠNH
"What would happen if you strangled God?" Bob asked me. I sat there as a variety of expressions came across my face, several of which caused Bob to chuckle. Then, I had what may be one of my nerdiest epiphanies ever.
Jesus' intent for most if not all of his encounters with people isn't just about living. It's about thriving. It's about being a part of community, about having a place to call home. Often, after Jesus healed someone in scripture, that person would ask to follow Jesus, would show a desire to be a part of the work he was doing. More often than not, Jesus' response was, "No. Go home. Go back to where you belong." It wasn't that Jesus' didn't want the company or the friendship. It was that his healing a person was always more than just a physical act. It was holistic, encompassing the whole of a person's life.
I don't know who came up with the idea that questioning God, God's motives, or God's actions (or inactions) is wrong, but I'd like to meet him (just roll with me on the gender assumption). If I had that chance, I'd point out David, Thomas, Job, even Paul. There are probably more biblical characters who dared question God. I'd ask why he thought it was wrong to hold God accountable for the ways in which God does and does not act in the world.
We all have grief, but sadly we live in a culture that is terribly grief-avoidant. We don't talk about death until it happens, and when it does, we try to get the conversation over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. We find the lingering grief of someone who has suffered a terrible loss awkward, and instead of sitting with that person, risking the upsurge of our own pain and past, we respond out of anxiety and fear, forcing them into a painful fortress of solitude, left to face their grief alone.
Nothing can prepare you for the chill, the smell, the fluorescent lighting. There is no way to get yourself psyched up for stepping into a cooler that serves as a temporary stopping point for the recently deceased. Yet sometimes you have to open the door and step inside. You have to unzip the bag and stare into the abyss of mortality...
Did I just say that? Yes, yes I did.
I WISH I WAS AT BETHESDA...
The fountain near the middle of Central Park in New York. I still remember the first time I saw her in person. It was my first trip to the city. I was staying with a friend down in SoHo and decided that my first free day I wanted to visit the Big Apple's very own oasis. I'd seen Bethesda in Angels in America, and ever since, I was, well, obsessed. Something about her outstretched wings, her unreadable facial expression, her fixed posture of eternal strength and protection.
Kylar is the most tangible piece of Nanny I have left. I don't care about the dishes, the blanket, even the pictures (okay, so I care about the pictures, but you get what I mean). Kylar's breath, the feel of his fur under my fingers, his tongue licking my nose (I call him my little exfoliator), is a reminder of home, a reminder of her. I know it probably sounds crazy, but it's true. Nights when I think about Nanny, nights like tonight, I snatch up my little brat (in cat years, he's somewhere between his late teens and his early twenties... trust me... he's a brat), and cling to him like there's no tomorrow.
Since that deep place in you where your identity as a child of God is rooted has been unknown to you for a long time, those who were able to touch you there had a sudden and often overwhelming power over you. They became part of your identity. You could no longer live without them. But they could not fulfill that divine role, so they left you and you felt abandoned. But it is precisely that experience of abandonment that called you back to your true identity as a child of God.
When I was growing up, I remember countless funerals where people would remark on the current state of the person being mourned. "She's with her Savior." "God called her home." "She's not in pain anymore." "It was her time." Back then, blanket statements used to bring me comfort. When your grandmother was one of fifteen siblings, and the generation before had almost as many, you went to a lot of funerals. Back then, I didn't ask questions.