One of the reasons for my faith is that I believe we are called to be light, that we were given a human manifestation of that light, and that the light cannot be put out by mankind. We are light.
But there are so very many ways to burn.
Some good friends of mine lost their house in a fire last night. Devastated. One, a pastor in Lansing, expressed thanks for family and friends and future. Their family, he said in a statement on their urban church’s website, will rebuild. He prays for families in Nepal, who lack means to recreate homes and whose families perished.
I feel a searing tear from my mother’s dementia, my father-in-law’s passing, from my husband’s incapacitation. While the first two are irreversible, the latter sparks and ignites feelings of frustration and resentment. Isn’t surgery supposed to move you forward, past swelling, pain that causes audible gasps, limping? Past coming home to a man in a chair without his pants on, wrapped in freezer packs, feeling the burn and bite of frost and ice?
The tendons in my own legs burn and stretch on humid days. It gives me a glimpse into my mother-in-law’s life and in my grandmother’s world.
This time of year makes my eyes burn. I don’t have allergies. I have a steady steam of tears from students who are leaving. If you haven’t worked in a teaching or academic space, you won’t know the bittersweet burn at the back of your throat when you say goodbye to these extraordinary people who have occupied space in your life. Were you light to them? They certainly were to you.
The lamp of knowledge kept me warm this winter, yet the end of a tough class left me snuffed out. I got a good (great, I guess) grade, but there was so much going on in my life, so many fires burning, I turned in a draft rather than my final edit. I didn’t reallize until I read the comments: “missing a conclusion.” Flash of embarassment and hot cheeks. I sent the correct copy with clarification that I wasn’t asking for a better grade, but for an acknowledgement that my research writing met my instructor’s high standards.
And like spark burns on a sweater you wear at a fire circle, there are holes in my life. I am remourning the loss of friends. I am uncertain where I stand and to whom I can turn.
My light is under a bushel.
Tonight, I decided to try to reignite through candle light in Episcopal worship, to walk deliberately into the light. I went there because I read a friend’s web-article about the wonderful weirdness that is ritual worship, especially as expressed in traditional ways, far from bright spots overhead and soaring guitar licks. I went to lick my wounds in the dark, seeking holy fire. I went to a church by the water, sun rays silver and gold over the pond.
Burned! I wound up in chapel with six strangers, myself included. Our voices formed the sacred phrases. I was the only surprised visitor. The worship presider (as termed in the program) is a young, black, gay man in Brighton. Talk about a flame. This conservative community has not snuffed him out. A rainbow flag waves splendor from the lawn.
In the little chapel, painted stars burn on a painted sky. Candles flicker. We are reminded, by the presider, that we are forgiven so that we can forgive, right there in that sacred space, and then move out to do for others. What have I done, lately? A shameful burn.
Oh, I know I’m a little depressed. I’ve been here before and I know the signs.
What I love, what I rely on, is the spark of hope within me. I didn’t put it there. It is divine and not of my making. My vespers prayer is that the flame is fanned. There is too much rampant halocaust and conflagration in our world. Not enough luminosity. Not enough glow.