Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
What does any self-respecting retired clergy do on a snow day? Read Bonhoeﬀer? Watch a PBS production on the life of Paul and Peter? On a day when a very steep driveway combined with six inches of the white stuﬀ makes for a clear and cogent case for staying home. On a day when Bren and I were reminded how we had planned to be south where the temp today was a “cool” 77 degrees. But now a snow quarantine had just been added to our Covid quarantine. (Oops, sorry, just a bit of a whine!)
Anyway, so what did you do? I cleaned out my closet… whoop whoop.
I have always found something cathartic in purging. Two boxes for the garbage, three for the thrift store, and a half bag of dust bunnies vacuumed up. Amazing the things you can find under a bunch of unused shoes piled in a corner. I’ll spare you the details.
Anyway, among the treasures I found was a box containing 35 years of journals. Journals containing prayers, stories, faith struggles, and personal stuﬀ about family. Among the journals is a collection I had written to our three children. Somewhere along the way I had fostered some erudite romantic notion that one day after I am gone my progeny would find these leather-bound exercises and see some intrinsic value in them. As if they would somehow keep us connected, adding to an ongoing character in our relationship after I am gone.
Egad, does that sound a bit narcissistic to you? It did to me. The more I thought about it I came to the conclusion that maybe I should do my children a favor by dumping these along with the rest of the refuse. They know I love them; that’s enough. They have their own memories and sparing them my revisionist history might just be the best gift I could leave them. None the less, as I sat in my closet leafing through my journals, I came to a singular conclusion… my life has been shaped by two forces: love and suﬀering.
Throughout all the years the details of the story might have varied but the themes are clearly redundant. There is an axis seemingly running through our lives which has as its poles, these two life-defining experiences, love and suﬀering. Everything else is window dressing. Thirty-five years of journals summed up by one question, “How has my life been shaped by these two forces?” And, how are they so inexorably intertwined?
We have entered the season of Lent. For many this is not the most favorite of church seasons. But for me, maybe because purging is personally helpful, I actually find this a very positive time in my spiritual calendar. To quote Fr Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, “In the practical order of life, if we have never loved deeply or suﬀered deeply, we are unable to understand spiritual things at any depth.” It is almost as if in the experience of faith these two forces have to have their way with us. We may live life assuming we are taking charge of these two forces, but in fact, love and suﬀering are the teachers. Or to use imagery of Paul, we are the clay, they are the potter’s hands.
I wish for you a blessed Lent. If you are looking for a particular exercise that might prove to be a blessing, I would suggest a reading of the above-mentioned Rohr book. Or, try journaling for the season. If that’s a bit of a reach, clean out your closet and make sure you share at least one garment/item you still enjoy. Love and suﬀering are to have their way with us.