Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Leftover Love

I've been coming to terms, more and more lately, with the idea of how much things change and relationships shift and one day you realize that your world is permanently different than it used to be 5 or 10 years ago, and perhaps different than you ever dreamed it would be. 

At least, it is for me. 

There's not even necessarily a good or bad judgment to this fact, simply an acknowledgement of what is.  There are things that I will never again see, places I will never again go, and friends that I will never again see.  And I've been wondering, and struggling, with how to accept that and let go of it, to love and honor the past as blessings from God in that time and place, and not wallow in the sadness of "change". 

The hardest part, of course, is the relationships.  As my move away from Iowa and my home congregation becomes permanent, how do I let the people do I process the fact that individuals who were so important to me, are people that I will never share a cup of coffee with again?  As I leave seminary, how do I deal with the fact that people who have "made my day", every day, aren't next to me to count powerpoint slides in class or say something incredibly profound or smile at me from across the room?  As I become absorbed in a career, and more and more demands are placed on my time, how do I deal with losing those who re-energized me? 

I stumbled across this poem written by Hrabanus Maurus that has helped.  It has given me words to entrust all the people I love to Christ, to honor them as gifts, and to await the day when I will see them again.  I just love this:

Then live, my strength, anchor of weary ships,
Safe shore and land at last, thou, for my wreck,
My honour, thou, and my abiding rest,
My city safe for a bewildered heart.
That though the plains and mountains and the sea
Between us are, that which no earth can hold
Still follows thee, and love’s own singing follows,
Longing that all things may be well with thee.
Christ who first gave thee for a friend to me,
Christ keep thee well, where’er thou art, for me.
Earth’s self shall go and the swift wheel of heaven
Perish and pass, before our love shall cease.
Do but remember me, as I do thee,
And God, who brought us on this earth together,
Bring us together to his house of heaven.
~ Hrabanus Maurus

I also think part of the struggle for me is that I have no one and nothing to replace the people that I love, who have been part of my daily life.  Wesley Hill, writing for First Things, explores "Celibacy and Friendship 'After 30'", by discussing a New York Times article that explains how difficult it is to find meaningful relationships as a single adult.  He raises a lot of issues (and in the end, admits that he doesn't have it all figured out), but one thing that really struck me was the idea that, "a big part of what we celibate people are seeking isn’t just to be the recipients of sacrificial love but to be able to give it—we want to be able to make soup for someone who’s sick, not just have someone who will make soup for us when we’re sick." 

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  Facebook is great, usually, and my phone works, as well as my writing hand.  And so I keep in touch (mostly) with the people I care so deeply about.  But they are now "phone friends", the kind that you want to spend three hours talking to, and so you put them on your to-do list until you can find three hours, and somehow, you never do.  They are no longer the friends that you call and say, "I'm headed your way, do you want meet me in an hour?" or "I'm bored, want to go see a movie?" or even "I haven't seen you in a while - let's do lunch on Tuesday."  And that happens.  But while the people I care so deeply about have been relegated to "long-distance friends", the space in my life has not been filled.  "Giving love" to those whom I care about, long-distance, is so hard, and I have no real recipients - or at least, that's how I feel.  The ones I love have not been replaced, they are simply missed. 

Yes, Christ calls us to leave home and family, and not put our hand back to the plow.  But it is also not good that we be alone.  And I just don't know how to balance those two right now.  Someone once said that "grief is just leftover love", which I think is a beautiful way of looking at it.  As I by necessity become more separated from so much that I used to know, I realize that I've got a lot of leftover love to go around...


Kathy said...

Oh, my dear, how much has been forgotten! How many saints were celibate for Christ! How happy and full their lives were! How much has been lost in the 500 years since Luther broke away. The time has come to recover what was lost. (Thank you for commenting -- I will respond tomorrow -- it's already late here on the East Coast.)

Anonymous said...

E of H, I just stumbled upon your blog this past week and have read a bit here and there. I might even know you or know of you as I graduated from Luther in December 2010. Not sure. But that doesn't matter. I'm just happy to have the chance to read some of your thoughts and experiences.

I'm in quite a different spot, really. I got married before internship and have two babies now, serving two churches out in the country in NW Iowa. But though the situation is different now, I remember well the feeling of wanting to serve another, to care for her, to do the little things to brighten her day. To have another is to have a concrete reason for living, an opportunity each day to know joy through sharing.

To be stuck with this need is a kind of wretched blessing. Wretched because one feels a need so keenly that it can ruin the flavor of the other delights in one's day. But a blessing too, because to be satisfied in living only for oneself is to not be fully human. You are fully human and so you hurt from it.

I should shut my big, fat mouth now, or should have a couple paragraphs ago. I know it isn't easy, but I hope and trust that it will turn for the good.

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