It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I think I can sum up my summer with this quote. I have had anything but a lukewarm few months. I have in so many ways had one of the best summers of my life while at the same time I have had the worst of times. I have felt wise and I have been foolish. Some days I know exactly what I believe and other days much seems surreal. I can bask in the Light but the Darkness has been a hungry hound. Hope has been tenacious as despair relentlessly banged down the door. The superlatives are accurate and necessary. In between, brief rest from the highs and lows have allowed for a deep breath or two.
Psalm 139 today reminds me that there is nowhere I can go from God’s presence. Whether I am in the best of times or the worse, acting wisely or foolishly, believing or struggling with doubt, despairing or hoping, in the Light or the Dark, God is there with me, holding me fast by the hand. I cannot squirm out of the grip of Grace nor slip out of the sacred squeeze. When the light becomes like night, God does not let go; the night is as bright as the day for the Divine One. On this side of heaven, God’s plan may seem slightly out of focus, but one day we may see clearly. Whether we see blessings before us or nothing but bleakness, God.has.this.
I have faced a number of significant losses this summer. One loss triggers another. The other day I was thinking about my father which triggered a life dream for me. I had always thought that once my father died, I would pursue a vocation that I have had for decades. I would find a worthy mission and move to my beloved Africa. I let go of that desire that day with great grief. I am unsure that I will see the red soil again but I have surrendered that with open hands.
With loss comes memories and a range of emotions to sort through if one is willing to do the hard work of grieving. I found myself smiling at photographs, weeping at words written, angry at how much some people need to endure, marveling at how beautiful our world is, feeling peaceful among friends, and grateful for blessings. Someone who is not too empathetic said to me today that I sure had been to a lot of funerals lately. As I unpack emotions about my situation, I also have to sort through those that surface because of other people’s predicaments.
Some people have said to me that they could die before me–they could, for example, get hit by a bus. This comment tends to be annoying to those of us who are dying because of it is trite and minimizes our truth. However lately, I have begun to see that there is an element of truth to that. I have been to several memorials/funerals since being diagnosed and as I sort through one of the latest sudden, unexpected deaths, I find myself reeling a bit. The firm foundation gave way to quicksand. I managed to scramble out and then I took a few days to let reality sink in. Life is not always fair. Most of us believe that we can move logically from point A to point B without too much trouble but when we are thrust to K and then catapulted back to F, life becomes uncertain. What do we do? Where is the hand of God in this? Is that how I did not get sucked under by the quicksand? Am I still standing because I am being held fast?
The best of times balance the worst of times. I have had good visits from folks over the summer. The reconnections have been meaningful and precious. I have had fun social outings. I have found rest for my weary soul. I have enjoyed walks down memory lanes and felt incredibly blessed. Hope has grown and flourished among the rocks that have come crashing down. The Darkness has not won. Wisdom has prevailed. God has clung to my hand and held me fast. At no time was I ever alone.
Extremes are mountain and valley experiences and I am a prairie girl at heart. I must become comfortable with the whole of the landscape of life. The Trinity is in all things. I must let myself be held fast and know that whatever comes, nowhere will I not find God.
Have you experienced the best of times and the worst of times? Has God been there?
What does being held fast look or feel like to you?
Hold me fast, Divine One. Never let me be separated from you in the best or worst of times, in hope or despair, in belief or doubt, in Light or Dark, in bounty or bleakness. Let us give you our hands even when we lack trust until we stand again on solid, sacred ground. Amen.