5 Years, 2 Years, 1 Year

October 13, 2015

I know my absence here means most of my readers have fallen off. It’s expected and there are no hard feelings on my end. It’s just that sometimes life becomes this mush of chaos and internal dialogue that doesn’t have a way of expressing itself in any sort of cohesive way. And at those times, the confusion of needing to stay silent reigns.

I won’t promise to be back here as regularly as before. I would love to, but inspiration isn’t always a good friend these days. But I will write tonight, and that matters… to me at least.

***

It’s been nearly 5 years. And almost 2 years. And over 1 year. 

5 years ago in January, I will have stepped out of ministry in the local church. It was a good move. A healthy one. A needed one. And a confusing one. It completely reshaped my life, my understanding of Jesus, my understanding of self and calling and hope. It allowed me to explore many things I had never explored before. It opened up friendships I had never thought to have before. And it ripped open a piece of my soul that is still sometimes only held together in flimsy ways.

A lot changed over 5 years. Breaking back into the Covenant has been challenging. It seems that even if this is your family and tribe, once you step out- even for good reasons- they bar the door. Or maybe it’s not barring the door as much as it is forgetting that you once shared a space at the table. Which is hard to fathom for anyone who has felt they have given their best to the Church and found themselves shaped by the denomination’s love just as they strove to love it back.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had. I have been able to coach and consult and preach. I know that I have more gifts in this season than many in my same situation. I have been able to make the yearly pastors’ gathering in the winter each year to maintain networks (this next January I will end up missing because the cost is too high and the finances are just not there anymore for me to foot the bill). I have gotten to walk with congregations as they struggle and overcome. I have sat with pastors as they melt in the release of fears and are freed to grab onto what God has made them to be.  I have people in my life who have influenced me in powerful ways, and I know that I would have never have known them without this season. I have been affirmed in my gifts and calling at each and every turn- every visit, every call, every meeting, every conversation. I have come in second to many calls- good churches or ministries where I would have loved to be- and second isn’t last, but it’s still second.  I have been given much goodness. But that hole in my soul aches terribly. I miss full time ministry. I miss full time work. I miss a community of people to call my family and live life with and learn deeper love with. That ache roars big some days- making those days unbearable like the first hours after a terrible sunburn when it hurts to move or touch or rub or even wear clothing. Often those days are managed with whatever tools I have. But sometimes they are unmanageable. Unruly. Refusing to stop the lament that grows in a drumbeat fashion, louder and louder the more I try to ignore it, until my entire being feels like a raw nerve ending and there isn’t even room to breath because the ache squeezes so hard.

I don’t even have to go back to my own people. I love the Covenant, but I can see myself finding joy in joining another people too, another tribe. I’ve learned to love my identity in Jesus more than my identity in the Covenant, but I will never deny that my spirit leaps when I run into someone who says they are/were Covenant or when I think about the ideals that the Covenant taught me to lean into. But as my husband has said, “Perhaps God has other places for you.” And I’m open to that. But need a way in. And I need to know if it’s truly time to join a new tribe. And that’s the hardest part.

And then it’s been 2 years this month. 2 years ago, I took my 2 year old son on a trip to visit a former church in Illinois. We celebrated the church’s anniversary, visited with dear friends, loved being with that congregation. And then my son got sick and sicker and sicker. And we began the landslide into severe infections, cellular damage, neurological damage, and entered into a world of very detailed science and medicine and disability law and therapy and diet. I am certain that I should have a degree in medicine alongside my masters of divinity, and I’m working my way toward ADA lawyer status as well. I’m sure I’ve aged 10 years in the last 2 years. The amount of work and tears and sweat and prayers that have emerged these last 2 years could cover a couple different universes. I have lost friends because I don’t have time to spend with them. I have fallen asleep pleading for God’s help and opened my eyes in the morning screaming for Jesus to intervene. I have watched my brave, happy boy descend into a kind of hell that words can’t describe.

There have been good things. People who have come out of nowhere to offer us something. A few doctors along the path who helped get us to the places we needed to go. People from across the world have loved a boy they will probably never meet. We have been gifted with notes out of the blue, with financial blessings, with concern. We have known what it is like to call out for prayer and have hundreds answer that call immediately. And we have learned in the despair that there is perspective. That the things that many parents struggle to celebrate, we do celebrate simply because those things were taken from us, stolen away, and when they return, we understand the magnitude of work it took for him to get that skill or action or ability back. And perspective helps, though there are dark days when my heart feels so heavy that I’m certain I weigh a million pounds.

And it’s been over 1 year. In September last year, we met a Gift. A man who has dedicated his entire life to the complexities that my son is facing. A doctor who is, slowly and methodically, trying to solve the puzzle that is my son’s health and future. He’s amazing, brilliant, serious, and I wish that he lived locally and not in California. But we also know that he may not be able to get our son whole and complete again. Nagging in the back of our minds is the reality that maybe our son will never be well. That the next suggested medical route- usually not covered by insurance- will be too costly, too big, absolutely impossible. And we will be forced to stop. To accept that our son will never be able to function in a healthy way. And the thought of that makes my throat close in panic and fear.

So many dreams have been postponed. The dream of a farm near here. The dream of another son by adoption. The dream of a future. The dream of living life abundantly. The psalmist sings a sad song: “Hope deferred makes a heart sick…” This is true. This is so incredibly, painfully, achingly true.

We peek under each rock and around in corner looking for redemption, looking for the end of this journey and the beginning of the next. We peer hard into the horizon until our eyes hurt looking for the God we have called to a million times over. We land hard in the dirt, face first til our lips are split bleeding and our eyes are bruised and our noses smudged with the soil, sprawled out in front of Jesus, pleading again for mercy. And the morning comes again, where we bow our heads and push through and think maybe next time, next day, next week this too will have passed.

And we know that even in the dark, light happens too. Even in despair, hope flickers. Even in exhaustion, perspective matters. Even in loneliness, community forms. Even in waiting, life emerges.

I don’t know why we have been given this journey. I don’t really care why. All I know is that it is ruthless and beautiful, lonely and full, hard and powerful, confusing and hopeful. It is not what we would have chosen. We still do not choose it. But we walk it. Because what else would we do? We do not understand this Jesus who delays. But we love him. Because who else would we turn to? We do not like this life, but we live it. Because even in the dark, gifts still come.

And so we press on… looking for the end. Hoping it’s a step away. Preparing for it to never end. And finding that elusive grace to make it another day.

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