The end is near. These are the days of the last class, the last exam, the last of the cookies and cake; thanks be to God. Time now to pack your belongings and set out into the world armed with your call, equipped with education. These are the days when we dust off the cap and gown and wrap arms around you and wipe away the tears.
This is where we speak a word of gratitude to you, whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for all the joy, hope and healthy tension you have brought into our lives; we embrace you and wish you well though we’d like to hold on for just a little while. We teach because we love to learn and you have taught us well. Your convictions buzzing around your head that you dared to speak, forbidden questions you found the courage to ask that caused us all to stretch and shake and know God; for this we give thanks.
We honor you with tassels and golden cords; drape you in the scarlet of theology as if to wrap you in the full armor of God though we send you out not to do battle but to sew goodness and light. We pray that by our stamp and seal you will remember your hermeneutic is love that your priority is not fortune’s folly but those who are broken and bruised, crushed under the feet of this world who await the kerygma you sing with your life, and they will know you by your love.
May the Holy Scriptures be your guide, not your idol nor your weapon but a testimony to the love that never fails, never ceases, endures beyond the grave. In the pages, worn and studied may you be reminded that you are never alone in your fear, in your doubt, in your struggle. May you be what Cain could not, the keeper of your brother and sister, the one who heeds the call of the prophets to remember the poor and will follow Christ to serve the least of these.
As you exegete Scripture, remember also to exegete life, find time to reflect, to center, to pray; may you hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Look hard for grace and redemption where they can be found and call them out. Laugh loud, work hard and forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Remember the Shabbat, find a way to keep it, you need space for rest and trust in your life.
As you go, remember this is your home, that in this place you found your way and that in these hallowed halls walk people who believe in you.
I take stock of these days, when tulips bloom and peonies pop though death and loss still loom; a friend gone far too early, a cousin lost without warning, a loved one’s mother even as I recount the hours and recall where I stood one year ago today. Do we fight, do we force her body to live even as it is clear her spirit is departing; do we hold on or do we let go?
It is a year later now and I grieve and I laugh, I dance and I mourn. I pray for love and more love, I wrap myself in it like a baby’s first blanket, I insulate my fragile self with sisters of the Christ kind who pour love on me, a sweet salve to my wounded heart.
It is a year later.
It had been a fast weekend at the end of a very long week at the end of a hard fought season. I was on a long flight home with Downton Abbey season 2 relishing the heavenly gift of a window seat and no passenger beside me. I stretched out long and wandered into the world of British aristocracy, the Earl of Grantham and his three renegade daughters.
Enveloped in the disagreement between House Manager Carson and Lady Mary, I missed the warning from our pilot that the ride was about to become rough. In an instance, drink carts were rolled away and a routine flight from Atlanta to Indy became the Wabash Cannonball.
Climbing high and dropping low, the plane itself felt like a rickety old roller-coaster that should have long sense been shut down. Drinks flew, women screamed and I--I breathed a prayer and rode the waves, the ups and the downs lost in the world of Cora and Sybil and Jesus’ care. Miraculous, I thought later, as not so many years ago I had to take a small orange pill to steady my nerves before boarding any flight.
I prayed and smiled as I remembered the girl who used to be undone with anxiety at the sound of every squeak at the jerk of every bump; the one who could not relinquish control enough to find peace 30,000 feet in the air let alone below, now held her drink with bended arm, bouncing flexible with the turbulent air and continued to find pleasure in the moment she had been given—hard as it was.
I realized, I am not that tranquilizer girl anymore. Life has come at me hard, there have been many highs and blowing lows and I am still here.
It is a year later.
The grey cloud is lifting and I am finding joy, I am laughing long and loud. Slowly some energy has returned to my frail muscles and my endurance has increased. The sleepless nights are less frequent and the veil of sadness has begun to dissipate, though the dull aching throb at every exhale remains. The long fought battle with God has eased and I have embraced now the truth that sorrow is a part of life and God can be in it just as God is in joy.
I have come to know that my suffering does not make me unique, rather it knits me together with all the universe and this deep longing, this good knowing is now woven into the fiber of my being and runs in the current of by blood. I am no longer on the island of pain alone but I realize I am connected to all of God’s children who hurt, who are lost and who hope to find their way home and in them I find sweet company.
I have heard it said that the path to healing is forged in love and time and that is surely true, I would add the PBS series Downton Abbey doesn’t hurt.