Saturday, January 16, 2010

1 Corinthians 13:12

Hospitals are intensely lonely places. They're buildings crammed full of isolation, and while hospitals can also bring life in and give life back, when you're the one who is sick and in pain, it's unlikely you'll be thinking of the birth day celebrations happening down another corridor.

My mom was in the hospital last week, and thank God, she's home now and recovering. But for eight days she was stuck in a bed, and I knew that if I felt alone walking the halls after visiting her, the loneliness must have been amplified tenfold for her. I spent her first night with her, not-sleeping in a chair and listening to a tv that was too low to hear but impossible to turn off, and I had a lot of time to think.

The day my mom went into the hospital, I had planned originally to write a delayed "2009 in retrospect" post. I hadn't been here in a while, an entire holiday season and new year had passed, and it was time to emerge again.

On good days, 1 Corinthians 13:12 came readily to mind, and I would hear probably only the only King James Version translation I have ever used: "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face..."

Revelations 21:5, in my Heather paraphrase, would pop in too. I would open my eyes, open my front door, and all was new: new year, new life, new heart, new hope.

On bad days, those words might come to mind in a whisper, but I would also be reminded of the note I wrote to a friend, calling 2009 a "shockingly difficult year". And it was. The latter half of the year in particular was, for me, filled with confusion, anger and fear.

There were too many sleepless nights to keep count of. I found myself withdrawing often, grasping at occasional straws, and I made some choices I soon regretted. I medicated a broken heart in both healthy and unhealthy ways. And I found my heart re-broken and broken again, until I didn't even know who or what was doing the breaking. I know it sounds dramatic. And if I say that at times I felt as if I was being torn limb from limb and then held under water, I know that would be hyperbolic, but it certainly didn't feel that way.

But then. Now, then. In one of my seminary classes a professor loved to point out whenever the phrase "now then" was used in the biblical text. It signified a shift, a sign that some stage had ended, and something new was on its way. then.

I'm not sure if it was the holidays or the hospital or a combination of a thousand conversations, but I started to see, again and again, that in the midst of the pain and the fear and the darkness, there had been all along these glimpses of grace. Some were tiny lights, flickers of friends stopping by, and some have been raging fires, times when I have been rescued. All in one year.

And my life is always this way. Grace is always there, trailing behind or paving the road ahead. As graduation from seminary loomed, I told a group of professors and students I felt as though I was looking out onto an empty horizon. No land, no other boats. It was an image, for me, that went beyond alone-ness, into something else I was afraid to try to name.

And lately, because of those glances and long hard stares at grace, the image has changed. There may still be an empty horizon, but I now realize that staring straight ahead has caused me to miss the people who have stood beside me on the shore. Now, I look to my right and my left, and I am overwhelmed, not with the company I keep, but the company who keeps me. I am supported and loved and uplifted and encouraged in ways I can't describe and in ways I am sure I don't even know. But I don't stand on an empty beach, and the ocean ahead of me keeps a steady rhythm.

I have no doubt that in some sense, 2010 will be a shockingly difficult year, but I don't believe that will keep it from being good as well. I don't do new year's resolutions, but I know that this year I will continue to heal, I will do my best to be honest and true, and I will keep both eyes open wide for grace along the way. I know I'll find it.

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