It takes a great deal of strength to refuse to answer anything of importance too quickly.
It is often better to let a newly emerging question answer itself over time
than to insist on dealing with it from perspectives too old to be useful to the present situation.
~ Joan Chittister from The Sacred In-Between
It was Thanksgiving break of my second year at seminary when I came out to Mom. We were down in Florida, visiting grandparents and we were driving along, just the two of us. For over a year I'd been waiting for this conversation and we needed to talk. I made sure I was driving, so that she could react however she needed to. I remember turning to her and saying, "Mom I've got some news." "What is it, honey?" "I've fallen in love with my best friend." She was quiet for a few miles and then she asked, "Linda?" And I nodded. And after several long minutes of silence, she asked, "What do you think God thinks about it?" We talked about that for a bit, with more silence following. After more miles down the road she quietly said, "It's not what I would wish for you."
Back on December 3rd when I began this tender Advent journey, my heart was heavy and I was so, so tired. I felt done-in, weary and worn. I was so deep in grief, I had no idea if I had the strength to begin, let alone complete this month-long journey. What I knew - deep in my bones - was that I was seeking "more light to come." What I hoped was that I could prayerfully and faithfully follow a star that would guide me to a place of love being born again, a place for healing. My grief was palpable. Despair as close to me as my next breath. Mom's words have been echoing inside me all these years later, "It's not what I would wish for you." Sometimes I could almost feel her comforting hugs.
For what seemed like forever, but had only been months, I'd been dealing with grief. I'd tried everything I knew to fix what was broken. I'd stumbled and bumbled my way along. Grief can be so disorienting. It exhausts and confuses and turns everything upside down. And with one turn of the page of my calendar, it was the beginning of Advent. "O Come Thou Wisdom from on high and order all things far and nigh."
Grief is not something welcomed or wished for. Our deepest grief follows our deepest losses. Some of us travel tenderly on this Advent pilgrimage companioned by a loss we saw coming from a ways off. Even knowing it would come, we grieve our loss from the inside out and back again. Some of us have experienced an un-expected grief, feeling blind-sided and unable to find our bearings...unable to find our North Star to lead us home. Left foot, right foot.
"It's not what I would wish for you." I remember taking a big breath as we drove along, my Mom and me. After more miles down the road I asked her, "What would you wish for me?" "I want you to be happy," she said. And now years later, I want the same. What these years have brought me and taught me is that happiness / contentment / knowing your soul's joy is an expression that comes from and with deep roots. Floods come and the roots hold. Draughts come as well, and somehow the roots are strong enough to find living water. Mom's wish for me was not words that would blow away with the next breeze, her wish was for that deeply rooted soul's fulfillment.
Joan Chittister has written, "To hurry through life, running frantically from one thing to another, is to leave the soul behind." If there's one gift this Advent journey has given me it has been to be aware of the time it takes to let my soul catch up. Grief can't be hurried or scurried. Its healing can't be purchased at any cost. No store, no on-line service would have a clue how to find it on their shelves.It's not there. Grief's healing comes from stopping and sitting. It comes from listening to your heart's beating and from paying graceful attention. Healing comes from the lovingkindness of family - given and chosen. Healing comes from hope not forgotten. Healing comes from holding on and letting go.
O Come, oh Come Emmanuel. God-with-us.