I may be absent in these parts for the next few weeks. I’m heading into year two. This week I pack my entire life into boxes and move three states for the third time in a year. I’ll be back soon, though. :)
Last week I sat on the front porch and watched a lizard extract himself from his old skin. He wiggled with a familiar agitation. Twisting around, he pulled sections of paper-thin skin off his back with his mouth.
But in his frenzy, there was rhythm. This was a process—one that he probably knew well by then. It was the most natural thing in the world, this shedding of the old self to make room for the new.
I’m standing at the brink of another year. Most days I just don’t know. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, or how to make it work, or where to put all of the pieces that are the last year in this puzzle of mine.
I’ve been sorting through all the papers from last year to get ready for this one. In all the mess, I found part of a speech I wrote last fall. The assignment was a ceremonial speech, and one of my attempts was a eulogy to the girl I used to be.
Even then, the old was giving way to the new.
I don’t always know how to make sense of all that was then and all that is now. I know that there is a place for the two to meet, but I haven’t found it yet. So I move back and forth, agitated. I try to shake this old skin. I just want it to be over with already, to be new and different and not somewhere in the middle.
Somehow, though, it is in the process that I find grace. It is good and right, this shedding of the old and becoming the new. Perhaps it is, after all, the most natural thing in the world.
“So how was your trip?”
Quite a few people have asked me that this week and I still don’t know how to answer. I’ve managed to say something about just how beautiful it all was, but even after three weeks back home I don’t know how to talk about all the things I saw. I barely know how to think about them.
It is one thing, I have learned, to go to another place and meet people you understand to be vulnerable. You can stand there and keep your emotions out of it and look at facts and figures and ask why.
But that is not what transforms.
It is another thing entirely to stand with them in light of your own vulnerability, to understand where you hurt and how those things mean you aren’t nearly as different as you once thought.
Our Sunday School group talked about suffering yesterday. The understanding we came to is that we can only comfort others in suffering when we know what it is to suffer.
So yes, the trip was beautiful. We saw God redeeming in incredible ways. And as we worshipped alongside those we’d come to meet and learn about, I began to understand the power of vulnerability.
In worship, they invited Christ into the vulnerable places they’d shared with us. In some strange way, though, they also invited him into the places we were vulnerable. It’s only as we began to understand our own pain that we were able to understand what justice really is.
It’s easy to go out and try to save the world. It’s much, much more difficult to go and hurt with others, to let their pain touch yours, and to let God redeem both.
Until we do, though, we’re the ones who miss out.
She texted me Saturday night:
I just realized… it’s been a year today.
A whole year. A year since a change in church leadership changed everything for us. Maybe not so much for me, since I was leaving in August anyway, but definitely for them. A year since I first felt my comfortable world shifting under my feet.
It’s all part of this growing up, I suppose.
If I could look the me of a year ago in the eyes and tell her just one thing, I’d grab her hands and say, “Hold on, love. It’s gonna be okay. You’re not going to feel like it is, but it will be. I promise.”
So much has changed this year. I know I’ve talked about it before, but every time I turn around, I notice another change. But they haven’t come without pain, though, or a fair share of tears.
I wrestle sometimes with the question of speaking for God and speaking to God and where they really meet in my heart, reminded again of it this week when I read this. I wonder, I suppose, if I am doing too much of the speaking for in lieu of speaking right to him.
He reminds me of all the change of this year and all the tears. And I wonder, also, if I haven’t been learning a different kind of prayer all along. A prayer that acknowledges grief more deeply than words ever could, that gives me space to begin to understand myself in light of all that’s changing.
I have learned so much in class this year about the beauty of lament. Maybe I’ve been learning it in other ways, too. Maybe the change has pushed me just far enough that I finally have to be honest when I pray.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s a far greater gift then I could have ever expected.
Hold on, love. It’s gonna be okay.
I’ve been home for five days now. The suitcases are unpacked, but they’re still sitting in the corner. A pile of souvenirs has spent the week on my cedar chest and everything from toiletries to notebooks is scattered throughout the rest of my room. I keep thinking that maybe if I clean up and put everything away, I’ll be able to make sense of my scattered thoughts, too.
I doubt that it’ll be that easy, though.
Three weeks ago, on our first night in Bulgaria, we were asked to think about the trip and say a prayer. “Pray,” we were told, “and tell God that he has permission to do whatever he wants in you this week.” The words I prayed that night in my exhaustion were anything but calculated and fairly quickly forgotten.
What I prayed, though, was no easy prayer. I asked God to break me and put me back together new. I was asking, I think, for him to reach into the places I couldn’t and change something.
And he did.
I still can’t wrap my head around all the things that happened during our time in Eastern Europe. God is doing something beautiful in his people and for two weeks, we got to bear witness to it. I don’t have words for so much of it, but I am grateful.