Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"God is not afraid of dead things"

Beauty in decay. eyesore9/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 

Tonight marks the first frost of the season. The second crop of carrots in our garden are shivering underground; the indefatigable Swiss chard bares its stalks to the sharp chill. I am wearing a turtleneck again, and sitting under a blanket, and drinking tea, trying to avoid the truth that all around me things are dying.

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As I walked my son home from daycare this wintry-feeling evening, he melted down halfway. He had not napped that afternoon, and his overtired/overstimulated little brain decided that the worst thing in the world was either a) me asking him to wear gloves or b) me not allowing him to walk an extra block to view an inflatable turkey up close. (I am never quite sure what he considers to be the inciting incident.)

To him, denial meant death. When I picked up his squirming, raging body and carried him home, my refusal to acquiesce to his demands marked the end of the reality he desired -- no, expected -- and he could not grasp how life might transpire otherwise.

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Over the summer, I had the opportunity to speak to my first honest-to-goodness acquisitions editor at a mid-size publisher. I was certain I had unwrapped my golden ticket for a book deal. I created a nonfiction proposal and had a promising conversation. I strived to assume nothing, but of course I was already envisioning the moment when my box of first-edition hardcovers would arrive on the front porch, for hope greases the track of imagination.

Then came the brief email explaining that though my writing was beautiful, the sales team didn't think there was enough of a market. Ah, yes. Publishing is a business, not a Medici-level system of patronage. My disappointment consumed me, and my hope shriveled within it, dead on a once-vital vine.

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We are in an endless state of dying. People are dying -- some naturally, most needlessly -- as the pandemic rages. Our earth is dying -- seasonally in some places, unnaturally worldwide -- as climate change accelerates. And while the election results brought half the country relief, not so the other half, and so now we face our dying idealism about how quickly we might move forward and how differently we all define 'forward.'

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Charaia Callabrass writes, "God is not afraid of dead things." 

Which means God is not afraid of my strangled hope. My impotent rage. My wide-ranging griefs. My sincere disappointments. My egoistic losses. My dashed plans. God is not afraid of anything that has burned to the ground, whether in a scorching blaze or whimpering embers. For what is death to a God who, as Callabrass frames it, chooses to sit with us in our ashes?

Then why am I afraid of dead things? Do I fear the dead thing itself? Do I fear what leads to the ashes? Or do I fear what might rise from them?

I ponder it now as my tea cools and the window draft persists, as my toddler sleeps and the chard prevails. Tomorrow marks another start, another first day after death. In the morning I will see what lives, and I will join it.
 
 
Prayer #362: Around the Campfire

Grief felt. Unloaded. Flooded. Released. Avoided. Acknowledged.

Joy discovered. Welcomed. Created. Manufactured. Shared. Deferred.

Anger simmered. Ignored. Stoked. Sublimated. Boiled. Doused. 

Hope nurtured. Summoned. Forgotten. Feared. Invited. Desired.

For every emotion traipsing through me, help me treat it as I would a campfire in the clearing -- with heat to feel, flames to corral, and power to yield with wisdom. 
 
Amen.