Like it or not, I have been fine-tuned since childhood to feel the weight of the world’s woes more than most, perhaps like you who read the Art House America Blog (or write for it). Luci Shaw calls it the poet’s curse, this heightened sensitivity to life’s joys and sorrows. We can’t not feel what we feel. I couldn’t agree more and yet the nagging question for me comes down to this: how do we find the good and praise it in the midst of so much suffering? How do we flesh out our callings with lives of deep joy and courage? These questions haunt me year after year. I can’t promise much in the way of satisfying answers, only glimmers, a semblance of peace.
When I look back on this year, I see a deep and abiding vein of grace that has brought me to the place I am now, safe, and I am so grateful for that. But it has existed in what has seemed mostly like a nightmare, so much like a nightmare that my memories of it are fragmented and disjointed, and the images rise up out of it like terrible fish out of a black pond.
She straightened herself up, turned to face me, and put her right hand over her left — a portrait of dignity and poise. And then, with just the two of us in the room, she began to sing over me.
“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Mr. Ramsey. Happy birthday to you.”
Then she smiled, turned, and left the room.
And I wept.
I hold Jeanne’s book in one hand and Jill’s note in the other. It’d be nice to have them both here, but holding their words is nice, too. And I have the words that fill my bookshelves. Maybe someday my words will slowly settle again onto the page. Maybe I’ll unpack my life and see what makes it work like I did with the books I studied in school. Maybe this is my next annotation.
Sometimes I am frustrated with the way my denominational tribe approaches the Lord's table. (Sometimes I am frustrated with the ways single people are invisible in the church.) Occasionally I sneak off for what I call "a maintenance dose of liturgy," to a place where everything in the service builds to the table, and we literally approach it, getting up out of our seats and walking to it and holding out our hands. (Occasionally I sneak off to someplace where I expect to be invisible.) I did that a few Sundays ago.