Tuesday, October 2, 2012
More than a year has passed since I posted to any of my blogs and 95% of my personal writing this past year took the form of grocery and to-do lists, the other 5% was comprised of items too intimate for public consumption and an ongoing list of essay ideas. Somehow, as much as I think I want to write, I keep pushing other things ahead of writing.
I love to write. Time often passes at warp speed when I write. But the more time I let lapse between writing, the harder it is to construct a sentence, let alone an essay. So, to encourage my brain to begin again, I am posting a journal entry/essay from 6-7 years ago, which I recently found when I cleaned out some files. It was one of my early attempts to sort thru and pull clear at least one string from the tangled mess within me.
EMMANUEL: GOD WITH US DURING SEASONS OF LAMENT AND SILENCE
Is God really with us?... Is God really good?... Is God?
These are questions which for most of my fifty years I would have answered with a hearty, "Yes, Oh yes, OH YES! God is! God is good! God is with us!" And as I said or sang those replies, my mind would have filled with remembered pictures of tender caring and provision in times of need and spilled over into an enthusiastic telling.
These questions are also the source of the themes that have been heavy on my mind for much of this past year of change and joy and lament, weaving themselves into my daily musings, angry questions, journal entries and prayers, into the very fabric of who I am becoming.
Both David's father and mine died within the past 15 months, each after lengthy physical declines over several years. As I watched both our mothers handle the growing burden of giving care and nurture with great love and grace, it seemed to me at times, that their greater suffering came from increasing isolation, as they had to let go of their usual activities and fellowship with family and friends, at the same time that their mates of so many years withdrew into that silent place within.
Between the deaths of our fathers, David and I visited our son, Kyle, and his wife, Michelle, in Kolkata,India. She was six and a half months pregnant with their first child, and they had decided to return to the U.S. to raise their family. David and I, along with Michelle's parents, followed Kyle and Michelle around during their last days in India, walking the streets, surrounded always by outstretched arms, beseeching eyes and murmuring voices asking for rupees. Kyle and Michelle deeply wanted us to understand the heartbreak and frustration they had experienced trying to walk with God and their Word Made Flesh community in that city so crammed with life and death.
David and I are still reeling from the impact, upset and humbled by our "Ugly American" responses to much of what we saw and experienced; unable to fit Calcutta into the world view we carried there. My friends had expected me to come home and begin sharing with them what we had experienced in ways that would broaden their world and encourage them in their choices to love and serve beyond their fences. I had expected to do that also because I had been listening to and sharing Kyle's stories and concerns and wrestling with his lifestyle changes for several years.
But instead, I became mute. I was angry that our few photographs from Calcutta looked so colorful and bright, angry that they hid the incredible air pollution and dirt and death. I was unable to articulate either in speech or writing in coherent words the huge questions that wrestled for prominence in my mind.
So over the spring and summer and fall, as we moved Kyle and Michelle and then joy itself , baby Isaac, into and out of our home, as David and I bowed under the stress of one of our most challenging years yet in our business, as I drove the interstate back and forth to be with my mother and father, the unanswered questions raised by Calcutta mixed and joined with the grief that continues to slip into our days on cat's feet.
Our year and our hearts became characterized by lament. We withdrew - physically and emotionally from others. We asked angry questions about the Church and our choices and the God we thought we had known. We despaired of our decades of giving to and serving others making a difference in any measurable way. We drew our family into a tight circle and we sighed together. And in the midst of all the lament, we cried out for mercy.
Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.
One of the earliest prayers of the Christian church has become my daily bread.
There ends my unfinished essay from 6-7 years ago.
But I did not tell of the prophet Jeremiah's recitation of mercy which David and I spoke in bed together just before sleep and soon after waking, almost daily, for a season, which I cannot, with certainty, place chronologically.
Because of the LORD"s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
Daily struggles and sorrow I had not imagined were beginning to carve grooves in our family and I would need that mercy cry even more, though I could not speak the words.
My own experience of troubles and sorrow pales like an ivory spot on white paper in comparison to the suffering of multitudes of people around the globe. These seven years later I am still learning to live the mercy prayer: to sleep, hoping for mercy, and to wake, looking for compassion with the morning light, and to hold "Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy" on my tongue and in my hands.