As the year winds Down….
Personal musings: my own search for integrity in action. Don’t expect too much here, dear reader, and feel free to move on to other things. It’s just one person’s internal monologue, posted here for reasons that are obscure even to the poster.
Every day is a new day.
This truism has carried me forward for much of this year, as every morning since May 24th, save one when I was too far out in the woods for online access, I have posted a brief saying on Twitter and Facebook to provide some encouragement for that day. This has helped to carry me through the ups and the downs of the year, and the practice will likely continue at least until I have accumulated 365 or 366 such sayings.
The downside of this is that I have written almost nothing else all year. Scarcely a blog post. Almost no poetry. Few personal letters. Not even a hint of a book. Yes, there have been sermon notes, public announcements, necessary emails, church newsletter, that sort of thing. In fact most of my creative energy the last several months has gone into preaching, and those who give me feedback on that generally tell me good things about it. It wouldn’t do to draw too much satisfaction out of such an echo chamber, however, so here I am, at a time when we traditionally reassess our strengths and weaknesses and make resolutions for the new year, wondering if I have it in me to resolve to be less busy and more creative in the months to come.
Maybe it’s that I have been spending more time with mobile devices. The iPad is awfully convenient for lots of things, but is possibly not the best writer’s tool.
Maybe that’s just another excuse.
Here is the truth: for more than half of the year, I have been struggling against depression. I lost a good friend in June, two more friends and my last surviving uncle in August, and had responsibility for memorial services — comforting of friends and family — in all of those cases and more. Yes, that is part of my job description, but that doesn’t make it easy. Point is, experience has shown me that whenever I fall into such emotional doldrums, one of the best keys to a pathway back out is through creative expression of some kind. This year that has been, mostly, preaching, and to some extent a series of private conversations. But I will know I am back on my feet when I can be both creative and productive in other ways. A well-written page; a bit of music; a sculpture, or drawing; any way to bring what is hidden into the open, so that my lamp is no longer, as the saying is, hidden under a bushel.
You see, I am affected by mortality. I don’t like it. Whether it’s a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student with a promising future, or a ninety-eight-year-old uncle, or the father of a friend, or someone I’ve gone fishing with, I feel more than a bit robbed when suddenly all of them fade into the past tense. It makes me look also at my own mortality. Suppose I match my uncle and survive to within shouting distance of my hundredth year? That is still a very limited time. Suppose a tree branch falls on me next time I get in the car? It could happen. So, I look at the infinite value in each day as such, and write myself a little note of encouragement each morning.
The great project here is to learn (and to the extent possible, teach) how to live with joy, peace and confidence in a world where death and taxes, certain as they are, intrude on our lives daily, sometimes seeming to overwhelm us, without retreating into some kind of unreal fantasy. In the preaching I do this by reminding all hearers (beginning with myself) that God is present as much in the one as in the other, that the cross of Christ shows us a God who shares in our sufferings, our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities, while at the same time remaining the Lord of life, to the extent that the symbol of torment and cruelty becomes itself the emblem of victory, not for those who inflict such horror, but for those who endure it.
And, of course, this brings me to the ultimate paradox: the mystery of mortality is bound up with the promise of immortality. The one who promises eternal life to all who believe is himself killed, but in that death the promise is not annulled, but fully revealed. There is more to the story. Death, somehow, cannot keep its hold on him.
So, I find my departed companions, who now include a roomful of six- and seven-year-olds from Connecticut, also partake of the promise as well as the horror. Now the path to peace and joy becomes a warrior’s path, a path through the valley of the shadow of death, where the warrior courageously declares: I will fear no evil! Not because he shrinks from the horror, or denies it, but because he has determined that the promise of divine Presence is enough to transform even such a dark place.
I would like to note that the Psalmist walks through that valley, but does not make it his home.
So I will emerge from these doldrums, and ride the swift current of the Spirit wherever the journey takes me. There will be posts, and pages, photographs, drawings, songs, poems, music and laughter, for as many (or few) days, weeks, months and years as I can produce them.