just over a year ago, a clergy colleague said to me, “You’ve got to go through Good Friday in order to get to Easter Sunday.”
I’ve known since last April that this year’s Holy Week and Easter would be a turning point for me; last April, I had a very painful ending to a job and place I had started to love very much, and this last year has been a trudging road toward a new, good normal. It’s not that I’ve necessarily arrived somewhere now here in Easter week, but that Lent and Holy Week were a big looming hill that I’ve crested–April 2014, and though I’m aware enough of God’s work to keep me dependent on Him, I feel like I can see beyond for a little ways, and oh my goodness, is the view lovely. I want to share a bit of my view.
Last June, I showed up on Trinity’s doorstep bedraggled, emotionally and spiritually. I’ve spent a lot of my first year trying to “balance” self-protection (having suffered deep burns in my formative first year of full-time ministry) and priestly vocation. Parishioners did not take offense, but patiently loved me, offered themselves, gave encouragement–they showed up. On Sunday, as I walked in procession through these dear people, I realized how I’d fallen in love with them; how their love had given me balm to heal. They showed me that even in the midst of pain, the best way to be is honest and real and unprotected–“balance” as such doesn’t exist, and ought not be sought.
As a two-clergy family, we have to work hard to find non-“work” friends. It’s a good thing that most of our community comes from our churches, but it’s also comforting, on the road to healing, to have a few friends who you know truly only put up with you because they really do like you for you (this is my own trust issue, not a commentary on the faithful friends I’ve been given through Trinity). The first time one of these now-friends said, “Hey lady, you’re looking different today; you doing okay?” I almost cried & hugged her. Someone who had no social contract to notice me decided to notice anyway (it happened to be Ash Wednesday, so yes, I was a little tired).
Less than a week has passed, and already I’ve been shaken to the realization that it’s not a storm that I’ve come through and left on the other side, but a shift into a new way of being. In doggedly pursuing healing in the last year, I’ve been learning to notice things–notice and relish the faces in the Easter Day crowd who you’d last seen pained and in hospital; notice and celebrate the tears welling up while you process through the middle of this loving crowd who has shown you Jesus; notice and be curious about the super-tight feeling in your stomach that won’t go away–don’t try to figure everything out, or to label every passing experience, just notice it, be present to it, say “Hello, you’re here right now, and I’m here, too.”
This is a more vivid, larger, and more painful way to live, being present. But that’s what God is about. God is so determined to be present with us that he came to sit with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, and he continues to be present with us through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Comforter comforts us in all our troubles so that we may comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (something like 2 Cor. 1:4).