light

This past week marked the two-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. J and I remember that day all the more sharply because it was also the day we got the call telling us that L was going to take Saul back. That call, the days of saying goodbye, the moments of watching our social worker’s van drive away with a baby we’d loved as our very own: all of it gave me the smallest insight into the pain that the Sandy Hook parents were feeling. The smallest insight, and also: no insight at all.

I have felt tethered to them ever since. I try to imagine they find moments of joy. It is impossible to imagine, and yet they must.

This is my first real advent season. The first season in which I try to sit in hope. In anticipation. The first advent season in which I think about tiny, revolutionary Jesus: such an easy way in to worship for me, a baby boy. The easiest thing in the world to revere: a son. Of course he would save us all. But this advent season – the waiting in hope – makes all the suffering appear in stark relief. Now one hundred and forty-one people – mostly children – dead in a school. The war between hope and hopelessness is violent. At least in my heart, it is violent.

We’re about to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. Five years since making a promise I know I’m yet to even grasp.

And it’s been almost four years since Emmett Ever left my body and changed our lives. J thinks of that day as the day her faith started to fall apart. As the day from which she’s been rebuilding herself into a person who can sit in a pew of a church and not feel like a fraud. In a way, I think of that day as the day my faith started. In a Rumi “the wound is the place where the Light enters you” way. The wound is the place where the Light enters you. The Light.

I was asked by my new therapist to draw (in crayons. in markers. in shapes and colors.) the last four years of our lives. I am a words girl, I said to her. She said all the better. So I drew. The symbols and shapes are not subtle. Red for blood. Hearts and circles and fat dividing lines. These have not been subtle years.

I didn’t believe people when they told me that the older I got the less I would understand. Isn’t that the sweetest thing about being young: feeling that you’ll just know more and more? Now I look at this photo of Caemon leaving his house for the last time and I understand nothing. My turn towards Christianity is not a product of some new discovery in myself that there’s a God, but of the questions themselves changing. I find myself in desperate need of a community that seeks grace. The seeking itself, in the face of poverty, and violence, and children dying under school benches. The noticing, not just in social media, but in a held-space way. In prayer. Because in thirty-six secular years, I’ve never discovered how to hold space. Now space demands to be held.

My tiny baby in his pomo’s arms in a die-in in the photo J posted a couple of weeks back. It isn’t an image I ever wanted to see, but how are we to be Americans today? It matters to me. It matters more than a bigger house or nicer things. How to be American. How to mother. How to be a wife. How to surrender and also to fight. How to live with the sacred and the truth, which is that none of it is sacred enough. It’s not just pacifism. It’s none of it self-protectionary. It demands suffering, but to what end?

Look at these babies, will you? They are playing music with their whole new little souls. I have been trusted with them. What I tell them about why they are here, and what their duties are: it matters. They are angelic. They are beautiful and perfect and profoundly fragile. They can and will go on to do harm. I want them to be brave and kind and faithful. I want them to wonder how to be Americans. Maybe how to be Christians. Certainly how to understand the sacred and the profane. Certainly how to serve.

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I love that it’s Christmas. Bram’s easel and Lou’s doll: they are waiting in the basement, along with two books for Christmas Eve, and nothing else. I feel more alive when humility flows into me, but welcoming humility is an art and I am unskilled. I sleep every night in an increasingly small bed with three other humans and two cats. I will never hear my dad’s voice again, and though that makes me sorrowfully lonesome, I still can’t bring myself to replay the last voicemails he left me. I think my dad could have been whole. Sometimes I reimagine his life. His parents are his. They minister to his needs. He grows up whole, and with his heart the size of the grand canyon he serves the world.

I am in awe of everything. I want to welcome the light via the wounds.

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6 thoughts on “light

  1. This post was amazing. Thank you for sharing. We too have started attending church more regularly this fall. While I admit this hesitantly (as ordained clergy this is dicey territory) many days I don’t know if I believe in God. For years the themes of Christianity, particularly of sin and salvation have rung hollow. I just couldn’t quite figure out how they related to me, or really were helpful notions at all. After Ferguson it became clear that I desperately needed beloved community. We needed church. And we were lucky enough to find an amazing, inclusive church home that is completely focused on justice. All of our pastor’s Advent sermons have focused on racial justice and she uses words like “transgender” and “racial reconciliation” from the pulpit. After one mention – most of the way down in an email – more than half the people in our congregation wore black on Sunday in solidarity with the African American churches in our community who were seeking support because black lives matter. All of a sudden I find I don’t care if God exists, what I need is a community that has the language and tools to work for justice. When I talk “sin” I understand “privilege” – something we did nothing to earn, that is invisible to us but that hurts us and society all the same. When I imagine “grace” I see dear friends and students who have gently corrected my poorly chosen words and sentiments – people who taught my sorry white middle class backside over and over again so that I could learn. When I hear “salvation” I think about the school where I work that is wrestling wholly and honestly with these questions. When I consider what the “kingdom of God” might look like I see a world where my son knows how to treat people with kindness as perfect, whole and beautiful members of the world and be treated with such in return. Church can be pretty screwed up, but when it is pointed towards justice and people are willing to be wrong/be changed it can be a tremendous place for transformation of self and society. It can also be a place of restoration when the weight is too heavy to bear. For so long I thought I needed God, but could scrap the church. I now find I am in a space where God I can take or leave, but I need the church like someone starving for sacred community. It is good to know that I am not the only one….

  2. Pingback: In response to: Breaking Into Blossom: Light | All Things Relative

  3. I love the Rumi quote. It resonates.
    Where I once believed wholeheartedly, I no longer believe in the Christian God. It makes me sad sometimes. There are many things I miss about belonging to a church but to go to one now would feel so incredibly dishonest that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the benefits of that type of community.

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