Monday, February 10, 2014

Girl on Fire

There's a fire within me, a passion that could light up a room,
or a force that could destroy the whole building.

There's a hurt within me that can build empathy for those in pain,
or that could break relationships with all those I love.

There's emotion that I call holy and righteous anger,
but I may just be yelling God's name in vain.


As I sat through my pastor's last service at our church, my mind and heart were a mess of emotions: sadness, anger, confusion, bitterness, denial, hurt, fleeting hope...the whole spectrum of grief.  Perhaps the greatest testament of her gifts as pastor was exhibited in the way she left with grace and kindness, showing the gentle leadership that will be her legacy.  Each scripture, prayer, and hymn reminded us of the importance of coming together as a church led by God.  The sermon challenged us all to let go of our grudges and get to the work of caring for one another in this difficult time.

The words from Isaiah 58 hit home for me:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
   the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
   and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
   and satisfy your needs in parched places,
   and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
   like a spring of water,
   whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to live in. 

While I want to point the finger of blame, I know I'm accountable, too, and anger and judgment aren't what will heal our brokeness.  My instinct, though, is to burn bridges instead of building them.  But running away has gotten me to this point time and time again.  The old "fight or flight" response kicks in.  Fortunately, through my pastor and this church's love, a lot of wounds have begun healing, and I don't want to give up the fight this time.  I want to be known as a repairer of the breach, a restorer of this spiritual home.  I want to...but I still have a long way to go.

Old habits die hard, and I was reminded of it in all the emotions this transition has brought up.  I've been through church battles many times before, and it's like the scars are showing up once again (I think about how Harry Potter's scar burned every time Voldemort was near).  I don't want "church" to be a PTSD trigger for me.  I don't want to think about parched places, but to see it as an image of a spring of water bringing life.  I know it has been that for me more that it has been a source of hurt, but it's easier to hang on to the hurt more than the joy.  But perhaps there's no greater parable of redemption than the church, broken and beautiful, damaged yet hopeful.  It's there in the broken bread of communion we share, in the tears we shed together of grief and joy.  We are reminded that life is not easy, but the hard things grow our strength and faith.  These times remind us that we are not alone, and even when we feel like retreating, life is better (though harder) when it is shared.

This song, which I sobbed through during the service, is my hope...that we can be gathered together in this place centered on God's love and our shared calling.  My the fire within us be of love, a light that will shine in the darkness.

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