Thursday, December 19, 2013

Something Blue

My church put on a "Blue Christmas" service tonight, a grief service for folks for whom the holidays are full of emotional pot-holes.

This is the homily that I wrote for the service:
I remember the color blue. I was barely 36 hours post-partum and I was walking down the hallways of the NICU of Children's Hospital in Dallas trying to find my newborn son's room. The raven wings of night had flooded the hallways and I wandered numbly past nurses stations and waiting rooms, searching for my baby. Machines beeped and my shoes squeaked on tile floors and the dark blue seemed to seep into my soul. I would spend three weeks there, sitting by my son's side and waiting for good news. Three weeks wherein the days were painted the grey color of medical equipment and the nights were the dark navy of consuming sorrow. I think in some ways, the color blue has never left me. The hue of my soul is tinged forever now; some griefs fade but never truly leave you.

You all come here tonight bearing your own shades of Blue. 
The blues of bruises. 
The blues of funeral garb. 
The blues of bills past due. 
The blues of all the varied griefs that a soul can bear. 

Gathered together, we appear as a metaphysical Picasso painting, hard angles and sorrow seeping outward. It has been said that misery loves company, but that's wrong. Grief recognizes grief - when we lose, when we suffer, when we weep, we become attuned to those around us who experience the same. Our blue souls find one another and there is comfort here. Comfort to not have to defend the hue of our hearts; comfort to sit with one another and feel release. And perhaps, to know the comfort of a God who has been been painted blue by grief as well.

Before I ever truly suffered - when life was a series of fortunate events, of sunlight days and grass-stained feet, I wanted God to be a removed figure of authority. I wanted God to be strong like a knight from a medieval tale. I wanted God to be separate and all-knowing. I wanted to believe that God had no knowledge of grief, only of unparalleled success. But in the aftermath of my own life-altering grief, I found the psalms and truly started reading the Bible and I discovered something jarring. Something comforting. 

God knew exactly what grief was.
The grief of losing a loved one to murder. 
The grief of strained relationships. 
The grief of adultery. 
The grief of having to watch children reap their own poisonous harvest. 
The grief of watching a potential future fall apart. 

And on the cross, I saw grief unparalleled- the grief of a father losing a son, the grief of unfathomable loss. A grief so vast that the sun hid at midday and the earth shook in fear. The God we worship is no stranger to the deep caverns of sorrow we all find ourselves in. The God we worship, the God who is suffused throughout creation, is in the deep as well.

Which is why I chose our scripture today from Romans. Paul writes to the churches under his care and gives them a word of comfort, a word of triumph, a word to bolster them up in their loneliness and fear. Life was difficult for them and difficult for Paul. They suffered through persecution and misunderstanding and all while Paul waited for his trial at the hands of the Roman authorities. For a man who waited his eventual execution, Paul sure seemed peppy, triumphant and self-assured. And when I'm feeling like I need a pep-talk, like I need some "rah-rah", this is a good passage.

But that's not why I chose it for us tonight. Paul's words here at the end are the most touching to me: "there is nothing that can separate us from God's love in Christ: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created." Before the blue nights of my life, I thought I could never be separated from God's love for abstract reasons. But now? 

Now I know 
that God's love suffuses the dark nights when I weep for my broken marriage...
that God's love is in the wind what whips through the bodies of people standing by gravesides...
that God's love stretches and wraps around the bodies of junkies coming off their highs.

Now I know that God's love finds us in all our blue places:
when we weep in the car after filing for divorce, 
when we visit our best friends during their chemo treatments, 
when we slump against the wall after another terrible fight. 

Now I know that we can never be separated from God's love because there is no deep dark place that God's presence is not in. God actually precedes us in those shadowed trenches of our existence.

So in this Advent season
in these days during which we wait for the Christ child to be born
and Santa to arrive 
and presents to be opened 
and food to be eaten...

In this Advent season
in these days during which we wait for the Christ child to be born
and when we see the gaps where people used to stand
and when we pick up the pieces of broken lives
and we find ourselves deaf to the bright carols pulsing from every speaker...

Know this:
that the God of all Things is with you in your blue grief
that the Child who will be born will know suffering and will descend into hell to be with you
that the Spirit who indwells us all will groan for you when you lack the words to cry out in your loss

Know this: 
I cannot promise the blue days will end. They may. They may continue.
But I can promise that we will be with you if you'll let us. And that God will never leave you alone in your sorrows. Neither height nor depths will keep God from sitting by your side through it all.


Shaye Champ-Mino said...

I'm continuely amazed at the woman you've become Liz. I hope to one day share a sermon like this; I pray that I might be able to use words in such a powerful way-Shaye

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic! Thanks, Elizabeth!