Thursday, April 21, 2011

What I'm Learning

The Christian Century, an ecumenical journal that I read regularly, has an ongoing series called “How My Mind Has Changed” written by semi-famous theologians. 

While I am not a regular reader of Esquire Magazine, I recently learned that they have a similar series called, “What I’ve Learned.” I became aware of this circuitously, when a high school friend of mine posted a link to the U.S. Naval Institute blog, to a piece written by a U.S. Marine who recently left active duty service after eleven years. He is the one from whom I learned about the Esquire Magazine series, because his piece was also entitled What I've Learned. I want to share a portion of that blog with you, which goes like this:

Chapters. (and why a father is always right)
On the last afternoon of my active duty service I met my old man for a drink.  We sat in deep couches in a familiar bar and ordered the old fashioned.  We first toasted the great naval service of which we had both served, and next the adventure that I had just lived.  We sat in that bar for hours and told stories of the great men we knew back then and how I wish the VA would cover the Propecia prescription for my hair loss and finally did what it is a father and a son do after one has come back from war and the other had already been, which is change the subject and talk about mom. 

And at some point that afternoon, I can’t be sure exactly at which time, I looked at my dad, who had flown three tours in Vietnam and whose one Marine son had fought in Afghanistan and whose other in Iraq, and asked him what he was thinking about just then.  He told me he was thinking about life’s chapters and how important it is to recognize when they start and when they finish.  He told me to enjoy this moment. And that was all he said.

During this Lenten season I’ve been thinking a lot about this very same thing, which I guess is why the words struck me. Earlier this week we continued the "college tour" thing with your youngest son, a stark reminder that we are nearing a new chapter in our life together that is sometimes called "empty-nesters." 

And as we navigate this ending of one chapter and the beginning of a new one, I too am trying to pay attention to my life: to enjoy, and even savor, each moment. This Holy Week is my fourteenth at St. Francis. I guess what I’ve learned (or "am learning") is that we never move through Lent, or Holy Week, or Easter the same way twice, because our lives are like an ever-flowing stream, and time keeps rolling along. 

Where we are in the journey matters, and we can only be where we are. This is not a profound insight, I realize; it's just true. But it has profound implications worth being mindful of. The journey--as Nelle Morton once put it, is home. 

I used to believe (rather foolishly, I now realize) that after ten or fifteen years in one place you'd more or less have it "figured out." That has not proven to be the case! The chapters continue to unfold even when you don't physically move, and congregations (as it turns out) are a lot like families. People come and people go. These days I look out on Sunday mornings and see sleep-deprived parents trying to make it through worship with little ones who are energetic and I think: "don't blink!"  

What I'm learning is to pay attention to the sacred nature of each moment. This Holy Week is not about reproducing some golden Holy Week of the past, or about figuring out how next year will be "better." It's about letting God break into this chapter of our lives with new and abundant life, to offer gifts of faith, hope, and love on these days.

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