The other day I was sitting at lunch next to a still lively, 90-year-old woman at a plush, assisted living center. (Funny thing is, even in plush surroundings like these, the food still tastes like your average, garden-variety, “institutionalized” grub.)
She told me she no longer sleeps at her age, and guffawed when I sounded a bit surprised.
“Are you kidding me?,” she exclaimed. “Do you think anyone at my age actually sleeps? ”
And then, by way of elaboration, “too many thoughts about all the things I’ve lost across a lifetime,” she said, in her brash, no-nonsense New York accent.
We agreed about something: the older one gets, the more our losses accrue; and, with the passage of time and the inevitable slowing down that comes with the ripening of age, the more time there is to reflect on those losses.
Which may be why I’m moved this morning by the recent loss of a love interest by fellow saint and sinner “The Tipsy Parson” (if you hadn’t guessed it, a pen name) and his willingness to share it in hopes that it will encourage those of us in similar places; it touched me at a site where I, too, have experienced loss and grief, and am witnessing the slow budding of God’s resurrection. Maybe it will you, too.
A few days ago Tipsy Parson tweeted, “To play in that garden would have been trespassing.” Here he is, by way of continuation on this theme, with some very personal meditations on romantic love, loss, divorce, ordination and the nature of resurrection for someone seeking to travel right behind Jesus, along the oft joy-filled, oft painful, oft-messy and confusing path to the cross and beyond:
The last ten months have renewed and validated my call — both as a Christian and as a minister. When I met her last October, I was still on the administrative leave list; ordained, but not serving. Sitting in the penalty box for no crime other than having been kicked around by life.
I was re-instated last December and have been progressing steadily ever since.
When I was first ordained I had a hard time accepting it. I was still bound to the guilt of a failed marriage and so I refused God’s good and gracious gift of the call to his ministry.
I wanted to look back. I wanted to look back and to find that fork in the path when I’d made the wrong turn. And in looking back, I started to turn back. And there I found her.
“Finally …” I thought, “here is one of my own.”
She recognized me too.
The months went by and we became close even though we only saw each other sporadically. I could tell when she was newly-out of another short-term relationship gone south because that’s when the gChats or the texts would start again, or she’d show up in church.
Then I kissed her. I picked the latch on that ancient garden’s gate and pushed it open just enough to wedge in my foot.
But no sooner had I done so and she was gone. This time for a longer and darker silence than ever before.
Finally, I’d had enough. I implored her and she relented. We went out. She was dating someone new. Someone she didn’t even like. I asked her if I still had a chance. She didn’t answer. Two weeks later she was single again. Single and free. And I had my answer.
To play in that garden would have been trespassing.
Here was the one who was made for me but having now been bought and called by Another it would no longer do. Through the long night and into the morning my old wound hurt.
“It will never work,” she said.
The destruction cannot be undone. It can only groan until it is redeemed.
Yet once redeemed, the scars remain.
They are always visible.
And because it is a broken body that is resurrected there are some delights that must still be denied to it. Some glories that are lost to eternity.
Yes, I made a wrong turn back at that fork in the road. The one near the pillar of salt.
Last night, I felt a hand on mine. I was still peaking through the garden gate. Her hand was gentle and warm. She removed my hand from the latch and pointed me toward the pathway.
She stood there, looking at me, her fingers playing nervously in her golden hair. Then she looked past me. Out into the distance.
“Go build the cathedral,” she said softly, fading away with each word until she was gone.
And so I set myself back on The Way.