(Quick side note - after the first Star Wars movie was released, George Lucas optioned out a Holiday special which focused on the SW's universe holiday called ""Life Day." This special actually aired on TV and is by far the WORST PIECE OF CRAP I have EVER EVER EVER seen. It is TERRIBLE. Even Lucas realized that and has done his best to destroy any evidence of it. But the internet is a deep dark hole out of which nothing can ever be fully extricated.)
Anyway, Life Day is coming. This will be my second year to celebrate Thanksgiving early, an attempt to mitigate the painful memories that surround the actual holiday. In review, Cliff went to jail on the Thursday before, was sentenced to 90 years the next day, that following Tuesday my father was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer and then it was Thanksgiving. Ta-Da! You can imagine why I'm eager to distance one of my favorite holidays (it's just about food! How great is that?!) from cataclysmic loss.
And honestly, it worked really well last year. This year, though, will probably be different. During the actual holiday, Gareth will be with Cliff's family. I suggested the arrangement, and I've no regrets about it. Gareth will never be able to spend holiidays with his dad the way most kids do (whether their parents are married or divorced), so it was really critical for me that I foster deep and commiitted relationships between him and Cliff's family. And I will have some friends coming down to visit me during that week. But still - I'll have plenty of time to myself to ponder the state of things.
Danger, Will Robinson.
I'm in my own head a lot. Part of that is just my nature. Part of it though comes from spending the last few years learning to be circumspect around congregation members (boundaries! I haz them!) and another part is that I've spent the last two years raising a child by myself with not a lot of adult interaction. Interestingly enough, toddlers don't want to discuss government misconduct, cultural shifts, pop-culture phenomenon or the insignificant nothings that can be the delight of casual conversation. So I spend a lot of time on an island in my own head, concertedly turning over and over and over again the sharp, the interesting, the confusing, the precious, whatever, trying to get more persepctive within the realms of my own introspection. And when you've got no one to bounce things off of, doubt and anger and overreaction and fear start to lurk around the edges of your island like blood-frenzied sharks.
I'm trying to plan to help out in a soup-kitchen or church-ministry or something on the day of thanksgiving - a way to serve others so I stop looking at my own navel. And hopefully I'll be in a new house by then (please dear GOD, let SOMEONE rent my house!), so perhaps I'll be able to unpack or decorate or clean. And there's office work and books to read and naps to be had and maybe I'lll drive up to Houston and meet up with long-lost friends. Or
I could wallow. I could pout. I could rage against the turns my life has taken.
That sounds way less fun. But if I'm honest (and usually I am), it could happen.
I'm not a sunny-eyed optimist like I used to be. And thankfully, I'm exiting out of the nihilistic depression part of my life that suspected betrayal and pain at every corner. But I'm still not fully recovered, still unsure about what to expect in the days and months and years ahead. I'm afraid I'll always parent alone, that relationships I want to have will be sabotaged by elements outside of my control, and even that this precious church that I'm about to be OFFICIALLY the pastor of will fail to rise up and live despite all the energy I'm pouring into them. It's like my hope is a healing limb, recovering from a vicious break. The cast is finally off but I'm nervous; do I dare lift heavy things? Do I dare stretch out and reach? Do I dare take chances that could land me back in dark pain? I'm timid y'all. I've NEVER been timid before.
So I was thankful this afternoon, when writing my installation service, I came across these words from the prophet Isaiah: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers they won't sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won't be scorched and flame won't burn you...you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you. I give people in your place, and nations in exchange for your life. Don't fear, I am with you."
I've passed through fire, through raging torrents of loss, through waters that threatened to choke me. And I live. And God loves me.
"Don't fear, I am with you. I love you."
What is there to fear? Truly?