(Actually late Sunday evening, CA time)
I’m in Barstow, CA, a mile from I-40 – the road home. Home to Shannon, home to the new life we’re beginning in Asheville, NC. Away from Santa Cruz, away from the home we’ve had there with our church, with our friends. And away, too, from church for me. The robes and stoles will go to the dry cleaners’ soon, and be put away for awhile. They’ll be replaced, very soon, with my new job as mom-at-home.
It’s all a lot to process and feel, to say the least.
I’ve been crying for days, at one thing or another, with one person or another. And, today, with the whole church. At another point in my life, if I’d been in the crowd watching all of that unfold, I would have been one of the few dry-eyed folks there. I’d closed off much of myself, trying to stay safe from harm, protecting myself from any depth of relationship that had the power to cause me pain. It took me a few years to realize how much of life I was missing, and to discover that there was no way to give myself to Jesus – or to anyone else – without grief and pain coming into play somewhere along the way. And that I had no idea what joy was.
Church life is hard, really hard some days. There is nothing easy about being in real, messy community with a whole lot of people. And there sure isn’t anything easy about following Jesus. But as I drove away from Santa Cruz today, talking to Shannon and winding my way through those familiar streets, I knew that every hard day these past 4 years was worth it. I would trade none of it, not even the dark days. Our marriage began there, in that community of faith, with that community of friends. Our child began growing there, 35 weeks ago. (5 weeks to due date now!) And I gave my life to Jesus in a deeper way than I ever have before – because I finally learned to let go of my need for safety, for protection. Shannon started breaking down those barriers in me, and this church and these friends brought them most of the rest of the way down. I still have a lot to learn, a long way to go as I search for Jesus’ footsteps in my life, in the earth I walk on. But I’m pointed in the right direction, and more so because of the ministry I’ve shared with so many in Santa Cruz and beyond.
What remains, now, in the place of those long-held barriers in me – what remains is gratitude. Gratitude for the grief, because it tells me how much I’ve loved here, how many people I will love and carry with me all the days of my life. Gratitude for the tears, because they show me the depth of joy I’ve discovered and experienced. Faith, hope, love – and gratitude. These remain.