Sunday, May 29, 2011

Even the Spirit of Truth

A day almost too full to write about. That was today, May 29, the Sixth Sunday of Easter in the year of our Lord 2011. 

No, nothing big on the national or international front (that I know of--haven't read any news since early this morning). But here, on the domestic front, it's been intense.

My son, the graduating high school senior, was the preacher this morning at church, in the annual giving-thanks-for-high-school-students end-of-May service. He, a writer of growing craft, an exacting seeker of truth, spoke well what he had written very, very well. He took something from his life, found it in other people's lives, and applied the Gospel: "I will not leave you orphaned," said Jesus. "I will give you the comforter, the spirit of truth, who will be with you always." 

Know that the spirit is with you always, he insisted, even in times of great change, when you must leave a place or a person or a stage in life, not sure that you will come back, or knowing for certain that you cannot return. He spoke of leaving the Island, the vacation place where he feels close to God and to all that is spirit and truthful. I thought of walking away from a graveside, of leaving a child at college, of facing a future where you simply must try something new, because to do the old thing over and over again and not have it work is crazy. 

Love makes us able to do this, to grieve and move on, to grieve and set someone free, to grieve and wrestle free from falsehood, false selves, a false sense of control. Perhaps the Easter season is so long--seven Sundays--because there is so much from which we need to be resurrected, those of us, at least, who are old, who have seen a half century or more of self-deception, self-protection, greed, fear. 

The text of the final hymn this morning, "We Know That Christ Is Raised and Dies No More," was woven through the sermon preached at my father's funeral, years before my children were even born. Its poetry and swelling tune open up for me a vision of a new creation, a "universe restored and whole." I left church with that ringing in my ears, with that energy in my feet, coming home to a good lunchand a party to honor our graduate. 

With family members behind me, I walked up the steps to our back door and saw broken glass. The window in the door had been smashed. We realized quickly that someone had been in our house. The desktop computer in the back room was still there, but papers that had been piled on the desk were all over the floor. My son charged ahead into the living room. I looked around, struggled to get my bearings in my own home, struggled to find my phone in my purse to call 911. I walked to the front of the house,  saw the empty place where the TV had been, the empty place where my son had left his laptop--the laptop that held the file for his sermon and all his writing from the last year or more. I called the police as  I walked through the downstairs. In my bedroom, the dresser drawers had been emptied. Jewelry was missing. Everything was a mess. And in the back room, there was glass everywhere. 

Outside the rain came down, from heavy gray skies. Inside we were angry and upset and were made to sit in the living room until the cops could search the house, assess the evidence, check if there might, just might be fingerprints. (There weren't.) We listed what was missing--some of which has since been found (the necklace my daughter made for me) and some of which (the PlayStation) we only thought about after the police officers had left. 

One thing that was gone for sure was the exhilaration of the morning--the modest smile on my son's face, my beaming pride, the mastery of the moment, the vision of a universe restored and whole. "Shit, shit, shit," texted one of my friends in response to my message about the burglary. I finished heating up the food, got it out on the buffet, offered beer to those who drank beer, and opened one for myself. And then I led the saying of grace, a loosely-strung, prosaic prayer of thanks for safety and my son and for graduates and God-given talents. It was a feeble prayer, because those words of joy and gratitude were a thing of obligation, or at best, of hope. They were not what was spilling from my heart at that moment. 

And we ate. 

But here's the thing. If you have to have your house burgled, then discover it, as I did, with your sisters behind you on the back steps. They'll clean up the glass, and one of them will point out that at least you've got a better vacuum cleaner than the one she used to clean the living room the night your husband died. The other sister will fold your underwear and sort the t-shirts that were strewn around your bedroom. Nieces and a boyfriend and your brothers-in-law will pitch in. They'll hunt down bits of glass and keep up the conversation. Friends will call and other friends will arrive and listen to the story and sympathize and then help you think about something else. Your son's friends will come over and eat and sit next to him on the couch and then take him out to a movie. Family will linger and talk and clear the dishes and load the dishwasher. And later, after you've posted "burgled" as your Facebook status, another friend will call, and she and her husband will eat supper and come over, and he will fix the window in the back door. And while he drives to his shop to get the laminated glass that will stand up to a baseball bat if necessary, she and you will sit and talk the holy talk of friends who have been talking for nearly twenty years. 

And in all these things, done with love, that new resurrected creation comes to life and grows, and the spirit of truth, always with you, always real, allows you, at the end of the day, to see this. 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

May dressed in gray

I was out walking early this morning, in an almost-drizzle. The sky was gray with pink, and the pale green on the branches overhead vibrated in the cool air. The maples were elegant and sophisticated in their red buds. Close to the ground rose-colored tulips and deep purple hyacinths sang earthy songs, romantic and fleeting. I walked on the sidewalk, next to fences, peering into backyards at flower beds and decks and children's toys left lying in new soft, spring grass.

A sunny morning tells a different story.  Buds are blood-red, flowers regal and arrogant. Trees care for nothing as they burn nitrogen and emit CO2. May sunshine cares nothing for others. It makes its own joy.

But this morning's sky, with so many colors suspended in it, like a rainbow, just waiting to be called to life, could be the setting for any story, every story, whether of lament or contentment, restlessness or hard-won peace.