Sunday, February 2

What January Did to for Me

I was afraid for the month to come.  Knowing I wouldn't be working, when I wouldn't have the happy distraction of preparing to teach and discuss missional engagement, when I wouldn't have the papers to read and grade. For the first time in over three years, I wouldn't be prepping to teach women another book of the Bible.  These were all the things that had kept my heart pumping, my purpose at the helm.

After eleven years writing out the second semesters' lesson plans, I spent our winter break bracing for the quiet.  When I thought about how the boys would all return to school again, I felt the fear that comes when one must enter what Parker Palmer calls 'unbidden solitude.'

In January we took another step -- do things ever stop shifting? -- and gave full mental assent to our now reality.  The '66 Mustang, that representation of whimsy and joy, was replaced with construction tools and a truck to haul them.  It is a daily reminder that vocational ministry too has been towed away.  For now.  And daily he goes to do the work that exhausts his body but leaves room in his heart for a new thing to grow.

And so I filled up January with anything that would make use of the silence.  I made (and kept) routine doctor appointments, doubled up on classes at the gym, stacked all the books to read in a satisfying tower. I worked through photos, auditioned for a job, and ventured into a new community of activist women.  I invited friends to my birthday brunch, the zoo, cooking club, to coffee, the play place, to lunch out and to dinner here. 

I also did things for my son who, in all honesty, just kept breaking.  First it was his glasses, snapped in two while wrestling with his brother.  Then it was a fall one day that induced a mild concussion and a sprained knee.  But largely it was his heart and in a courageous act of maturity we all began the weekly practice of family counseling.  So many things have transpired and he's taken the brunt of it all.  We want to be better helpers.  Wounded healers, all.

What January did was calibrate what is now regular: his daily work, prayer group, core group, Cub Scouts, youth group -- the regular steps we take each week.  This is the shape of our family now.  Even if this is all there is, can I consider it enough?  January appraised the value of my relationships, tweeked my expectations, fine tuned our existence.

But more profoundly, what January did was carry me more deeply into disillusionment -- which sounds sad and gloomy but isn't.  While there were a few days where the melancholy hovered, January took my hand and led me to real truths about myself, my faults, my family, my past.

There began a stripping away of things I thought to be true:  the family system that doesn't encourage nearly enough, my listening skills that were found lacking, the partners that are really consultants, the sweet boys that have their own emerging faults, the missional endeavor that was really attractional. I learned to respond to disillusionment with joy, knowing that what was happening was what was right.

January was a needed stripping away in which I let illusions die.  I re-examined who could input into my life, relaxed when false motives came to light, reviewed systems and re-entered a sphere where I was just a woman with a nametag.  There was the direction change that needed to happen though I didn't want to admit it. There was the marriage coaching with friends who appear fine on the surface.  And even the bathroom scale reports the 'grief diet' is no longer effective.
"As our illusions are removed, like barriers on a road, we have a chance to take that road farther toward truth." -- Parker J. Palmer
I am grateful for January. For its reminders that this present moment is always grace.  Always gift.  That discovering truth doesn't equal catastrophe.  It just reveals the direction in which to travel.