Last year I was a wreck during this service:
By the time we got to the Service of Shadows on Thursday night, I was exhausted by all of the emotions drawn from me by this season. As we told the story of Jesus' death, and the candles were extinguished one by one, I let everything come together. The last candle went out and all I could do was weep and whisper, "Too much loss. Please don't die." For Mary's son, yes. And also for my own circumstances.In fact, all of last year was a sorrowful mess. I had blogged about grief all the way through Lent, but the grief didn't stop on Easter morning. April, May, June, July...all the way through December. And
then 2015 granted no mercy and January was filled with difficult personal news. Then February was filled with difficult job news. March was better, finally, and I hung limp like an unwashed dishtowel. It's not been a pretty picture.
In March, my brother Lukata asked if I would fast with him and a few other people. So for the three weeks before Easter we have been fasting and praying. On Easter morning we will break our fast early in the day, before dawn, and then I will go lead the Easter sunrise service.
I have never been more excited about Easter than I am this year.
In these last few months some things have broken free. Or perhaps it is I who has broken free. My circumstances have not changed, but I have.
Tonight I sit out on my porch for the first time since October. I'm still wearing my peacoat, but I have sandals on and the mosquitos are biting. I am out on my porch! I had hoped to share this porch with someone. And now I have a housemate. Which isn't what I quite expected, but is lovely nonetheless. I've been living alone with my children and cats for almost 8 years since my divorce, and now I have adult company.
My family is a mess. As I suspect most of our families are. In January I sat with a friend and wept for the unrelenting grief of motherhood. And I decided there that I would treat every conversation with my children (and others) as if it was probably my last time with them. I would make sure they know that I love them and I would speak truth. Perhaps this is good advice for all of our relationships, but there is particular urgency for me, and I have come to an extraordinary peace with this.
My work remains complicated and fraught with tension. There are so many people and agendas involved in this collaborative youth ministry that it is hard to know which direction to turn. Perhaps what I have learned best in this last year is that I cannot please everybody, or even most everybody. In this last year, as I have been drawn more deeply into our students' lives, I have narrowed my focus to what is faithful. Which means most days I don't really please anybody.
I've been ill this last year (and no wonder my body is screaming out). Finally, perhaps, I am healing, and I can feel with this fasting a new beginning.
I mourned especially last year black and brown boys and girls and men and women who were murdered. Sometimes by police, sometimes by strangers, sometimes by neighbors, sometimes by family. What is the difference between Taquan and Naquan? A letter, a friend said. One shot the other, they say. Cain and Abel all over. I came in this last year to know that these too are MY children, MY brothers, MY sisters. What a terrible year of grief this has been.
I am stronger. I have harder edges than last year, places in my soul where the hurt cut too deep and the scar tissue is thick. But I have learned to twist and bend around those scars to find new ways of movement.
I did not find sanctuary where I asked for it, but I received hospitality in places I had no right to expect it. Friends came and went, stopping to absorb as much of my grief as they could, and then bowing out to take care of themselves. It is right that they left, but I felt the leaving. Last year I wondered if there was anyone at all who could tolerate my company. But there were pockets of time and company offered as a gift, and I am grateful for what was possible.
I have found new depths, and in the shadows I met God.
What more could one ask?