It’s not quite spring yet, here in Maine. Some of the snow is gone, but a lot of it isn’t, and where it has melted away there are great expanses of damp dead grass and sticky mud. Things are not visibly growing – not yet. Winter has been long this year, and it will take awhile for the world to reawaken.
I am in the calm place after the storm, or at least between the storm fronts. It is strange this time coming home from Chicago without an enormous frenzy of things to be doing next. Well, there are papers to be written and a final project that is just a teensy bit past its original due date, but these are solvable problems, I think, and it seems possible that I might get to the end of the term without having a major academic meltdown.
It is really strange to consider that I am almost a year into seminary and almost two years out from the spiritual crisis that precipitated this bewildering transformation. It feels like the beginning. Perhaps it is the beginning; perhaps it is always the beginning of whatever is happening next as much as the culmination of whatever has just finished happening. The image of pebbles in the surf sticks with me – the eternally shifting mosaic of a beach.
I got stuck last week in one of the vortices of personal suck, the one where I am painfully, viscerally conscious of my own frailties and inadequacies. It’s difficult to talk about this sort of thing. To declare that I am exhausted and empty and broken beyond redemption seems to invite an abundance of gently enthusiastic affirmation from my fellow students, for which I am largely grateful. But it is important to me also to acknowledge the darkness, the absence, the limitation and the bleak comprehension that we, that I, am not only incapable of solving all of the world’s problems but in fact inadequate and insufficient to solve any of the world’s problems in any achievable sense, and yet, and yet, deep down and beneath the weight of certain failure, still hope rises like the inexorable unfolding of flowering plants beneath frozen snow-covered earth.
This is where I get a little bit theistic, I guess. It is not my agency that will save the world but that Power, whatever be its name, which moves me and moves through me and moves through countless others. These hands – my hands, your hands – are the hands of God and by them is God’s work accomplished in this holy, broken world.
It is strange. It is frightening to consider. I am so very small and human, and I don’t pretend to understand mystical experience. I don’t think “understanding” is even part of the deal here. But I feel this peculiar openness, in ways that are difficult to describe, and even though I might consider abandoning this journey, for fear of failure to be wiser or stronger or more perfect than I could possibly be, I know that’s not going to happen this time. I still can’t not do this. I am too powerless to argue about it.
So I begin, again, where I left off: broken, wary, as much in need of my own healing as possessed of any capacity to heal another, grumpy and tired and human and small. It is not possible never to make any mistakes. I will screw up. (I might be screwing up right now, and not realize it.) And perhaps, perhaps – I want this to be true, but I have not learned to trust it yet – perhaps this is okay. Do I need to be forgiven of my transgressions? Maybe. Do I trust that such forgiveness will be forthcoming? I want it to be so. And I am beginning to imagine that it might be. Gift beyond measure, freely given.
And so, when all is cold and barren, I imagine the stirrings of the roots in the earth, and the swelling of buds on the frost-damaged twigs, and I listen for the rustling of birds in the branches and I believe that it will not be winter forever. There comes, eventually, the promise of rebirth.