I am working on our family’s yearly calendar right now. I am a little late, but time is just a construct, amirite?! No need for the calendar to be here before the first of the year. We all got this. 😉 Might as well be late delivering the thing we keep laughing about me struggling with—the calendar! #calendarchallenged #evenwhenresting
Y’all, what a year this has been. If you have been following my journey, you know we took a major blow this year—multiple of them—ALL IN A ROW! But you might also know we came out the other side of it alive. I wish I could say unscathed, but I can say undefeated. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego story comes to mind. We are a resilient family. You can see our wounds, but you can also see that our love and compassion has only increased, not decreased. Love is the strongest force in the universe.
In our calendar, I just completed adding pics during the roughest season in our family’s life. I thought when I got to Wilshire in 2017 my family had weathered the worst storm. That was the first test, apparently. I will tell you why I am using the word test in a minute. But what I am seeing adding pics during that horrible, no good, rotten season, there were still lots of good moments worth remembering and adding to the calendar. Joy/Love never abandoned us, even then.
Abandoned. This is a word that comes up a lot with me. It is widely known in the enneagram world that 4s are the ones that struggle with the fear of being abandoned. I am not sure we are the only ones that fear abandonment; actually, I know that is not true. But 4s do give language for it. Never underestimate the power of belonging, for anyone.
When I showed up at Wilshire in 2017, I was experiencing deep grief of a different kind of abandonment that I have written about for years and worked to heal from in seminary, only to end seminary with another major storm that was leaving us abandoned again! Even stronger and more severe this time.
Let me back up a minute. Right before that storm, I had gone to the Meadows Museum with my Pastoral Care class to look at the art that was on display at that time. The theme was “The Prodigal Son,” and the exhibits were amazing. But the thing that drew me in that I identified with the most were the simple metal plates with words like: abandoned, unknown, invisible, etc…Those spoke to me, and my whole class had guessed that is what I would say spoke to me. Apparently, I am known! LOL! (Laura Watson Byrd, remember this?).
Shortly after this trip to the museum, a storm came that fulfilled every fear I was experiencing (and more) and gave me something to really fear. I will never be over what happened, and I still cannot figure out how or why it happened because none of it makes sense. The system was screwing up and the more it screwed up, the crueler it became to us. And then the deaths—Angel, our dog; Roberta, Jake’s mom; and Kimberlyn’s best friend’s sister, Brooklyn Moran. It was so much pain and tragedy, my heart could barely hold it all. But it did, and there is a reason why.
My family was literally abandoned by every system that is in place to keep us safe. But individual people did not abandoned us. It made me see we had built and ark, and it was not intentional. It was built naturally through friendship and having sowed the seed of good character in our community (different than reputation, even though, yes, good reputation too. But reputation comes and goes. Character is what is real). But what we also saw, and I cannot name one system when I say this, are multiple broken systems. Public school teachers are in real trouble because of this, as are so many of us who are trying to do the right thing. That is not what the system cares about, really.
Back to the test I mentioned earlier. I believe in a way we were tested. It was not orchestrated by God, but by our broken systems. Trying to live in a system that no longer recognizes love, and even mistrusts it, what happened was going to happen. Jonathan Martin talks about that in ”The Road Away from God.” When Jesus said this must happen, his death, he did not mean to satisfy God. It meant it had to happen because a system set up as it was is going to kill a person living as he was living—with love. Love is the strongest force in the universe, as I said earlier. It even scares the “good guys” with a gun.
Our first test was trying to decide if God was enough for us now that everything we once believed has crumbled: soccer and faith world. Can we trust God, alone?
I was sent to seminary to decide.
Second test addresses my abandonment issues: can I learn to not abandon myself? If I can learn to do that, it does not matter if people will abandon you. Because they will. It happened to Jesus too. What happens when I experience the scariest abandonment I have ever known and survive. Can I learn to not abandon myself in this moment? And even learn to trust myself, no matter what others may say….