Changing Seasons; New Year’s Challenge

As the days of Advent dwindled this year, I saw myself grasping–begging it not to go.  There’s something sweet about the way nights have been dark and quiet with hot tea, a fire in the ‘place, and a craft project in hand.  It almost feels like we’ve been building a ship, lovingly sanding the boards, carefully melding them together, adding sail and rudder and varnish.  Now, though, the dry dock about to be filled and the supports are ready to give way, and it’s time to test all the preparation we’ve made.  We’re going into the fray, the incarnation is coming; just when waiting and preparing got really comfortable, the adventure begins.

I think I sort of forgot about the adventure, the incarnation–I preferred to ponder the waiting.  There’s not much you can do when you’re waiting, you just keep your head down, say your prayers, do your work.  When the water rushes in, you suddenly have to swim, to put to the test all the pondering, learning, and preparing you’d done.

Many autumn days (long before Advent began) felt like this, too.  There was too much that threatened to push in and change things–to make me into a new kind of person; exhausting me out of bad habits and shoving me into good ones.  I resist.  I cling to tv shows and drag my feet to yoga class.  I lie in bed in the early morning, willing myself back to sleep, though my journal, and books, and coffeemaker all lie ready to be used.  Just keep your head down, do your work, say your prayers, don’t look around.

Christmas is here, and even now (especially those of us in clericals), we begin to look forward to Epiphany, which pushes in on us with great, blinding, demanding light.  Epiphany’s a little like New Year’s–it says to us, “Here’s an enormous, dizzying, life-changing gift…  What’re you going to do with it?”  As W.H. Auden said in the poem I read in church last Sunday,

…Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

For a month in 2013, I had no job, no contract to promise a job, no illusion of my independence from God (my husband is a Ph.D. student, no real income there, either).  It was the most peaceful, joyful month of my entire life.  I knew in the deepest way possible that God was truly our only hope and foundation–my paycheck, my functioning as a parish priest, my local support network (largely), had all been asked of me if we were to continue following God’s call.  So we prayed, and we plunged.

We’re called to live in a way that our lives look insane if our triune God does not exist.

Who Are We?

A wise woman blogging through a difficult transition recently wrote that she’s “trying to set energy aside for dealing with life’s daily hiccups before they derail [her].”  Immediately, I knew what she meant; I call it “emotional fat”–that energy, a shock-absorber, that keeps spilled milk from becoming a puddle of tears and torn-out hair.

Sometimes we lose our way when it comes to an equal-and-opposite reaction, or even better–no “reaction” at all, but being a non-anxious presence in the midst of upheaval.

Coming back from a place of emotional-boney-ness (which may come up suddenly and without warning, or you may know very well whence it comes, but it’s still unexpected when its impact is so great) takes time, of course, and it happens gradually, with the help of loved ones, and sometimes doctors, and often (for me) chocolate and pastry.  Then one day, you look back, and though you’ve got plenty of new stressors, you realize you don’t even want that pastry you promised to yourself for completing the task–the task being done is plenty, or perhaps the task itself was a joy.  You make a mental note, “Remember, Self: you love this task which you do.  You may not think so, but the moment you get yourself out of bed, or into the car, or onto the phone, you love the way the task reminds you of who you are, and the way the task helps you to be connected.”

I wonder if some of the emotional-boney-ness comes from losing track of who you are.  We are the relationships we have–I wouldn’t be Emily if I didn’t have two brothers who live in NYC and with whom I became who I am; I wouldn’t be Emily if I didn’t have lots of family of varying blood-relation splattered all over the globe.  Apart from our relationships, we don’t exist, and being un-connected can sort of make us feel as if we aren’t there at all.

On the deepest level, the relationship which truly defines us is Jesus.  God came to rub shoulders with each of us, and in relationship to us, with so much love, peacefully, willingly gave up his life for each of us, that we may all be together at the end of time with no death or disconnection ever again.  Our worth and energy and emotional fat comes from working to believe* that God really does love you so much as to give up everything for you.

*this is “faith,” and it is a gift, not something we can really work our way into, but it does seem that we’re told a lot of lies about our worth and what makes us worthy.  we continue to pray.