This morning I woke in the perfect dark, before my alarm, before anyone else seemed to stir. I tried to go back to sleep, but the moon was so bright.
This morning I dressed in silence, shivering in the chilly room, without coffee. I loaded my car in the dark parking lot and drove away.
This morning the rising sun competed with the setting moon and my 75 mile per hour speed for my attention. I sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Adele’s Hello. I sang Johnny Cash and John Denver and Phantom of the Opera and was hoarse before I hit 96 west. I sipped coffee and told myself the roads were fine, look at all these other brave people passing me!
I didn’t stop at rest areas, I went almost straight through, because I had promised my husband I would, because women have an unsettling way of going missing.
As I approached the exit where my group and I normally meet to carpool to this deacon school I was driving away from a song came on, this lovely setting of a blessing. I decided to stop at the gas station and get a coffee. I pulled into that carpool lot and scribbled out that blessing though I am not and will not be qualified to give such a thing: May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back…. and I left it on a torn off sheet of notebook paper on the windshield of a dear friend.
And I hoped that my message wouldn’t be washed away as the frost on her windshield gave way to water. And I hoped that they would find that message, and know that I’d stopped and thought of them, ripped that page out of my notebook leaving a jagged edge, hunted for a pen. They are just leaving now, and so they will find possibly only a wet piece of paper in an hour or so.
We shall see.
We talked about Wisdom this weekend, how she stood on the corners, at the city gate and she pleaded. I think Wisdom was a prophet in her own right, recalling people to their covenant, begging them to be better neighbors, better people. I thought of the city gate in York, how we passed under it and traversed The Shambles, where all the buildings sigh and groan and lean into each other. How sometimes we people do that too, sign and groan and lean.
There is free time after class when I go to deacon school. And we have some drinks and some snacks, and we talk and compare notes, we unload. A friend said that a patient of hers, who is only in her twenties, had a cancer that has metastasized to her brain, and she drew breath here as we waited for the diagnosis. My friend wants to know where God is.
I told her that God is in his campground, and that there is not anyone, not one person or being alive or dead who is beyond the love of God. I told her that I don’t know why God lets things happen, but that we have overcome the grave, that young woman will arrive, suddenly, on a beaten path. She will clutch a teddy bear, she will be unsure of how to proceed, of where to go. The lights will draw her in, the smoke from our early morning fires. And her head won’t hurt anymore, and we will have coffee and reasonably good company, and we can help her in this new place, explain the lay of the land, how the moon still shines brightly, how the nights can be so cold. How we can feel so alone, even here.
How there is still, always, more road to travel.
We talked in class about the sometimes tenuous links between what New Testament writers wrote and the Hebrew Bible they also knew. We talked about the apocrypha, Mrs. Maccabee urging her sons toward martydom, because she believed in a resurrection, because she believed there was something else, that death was not the end.
I thought about calls. I thought about being sure. I thought about what deacons do and what priests do. I thought about much I hated giving birth but how obviously necessary it was, the pain, the discomfort and helplessness. How I feel the same way now, unsettled, full, spilling over and how I can’t do anything but robe up and lay down on the ground in front of an altar. How I can’t do anything but spread my arms and press my face to the floor, to listen for the words that tell me what to do next, to look for the signs that will make my destiny clear, how someone I had been so unsure of became suddenly a confidant this weekend, how inconvenient she advised God can be.
Our dear Fran, bastion of Grace, embodiment of St. John’s passed in her sleep last night. I found this out in a quick walk down the aisle of the nave, on my way to that robing room where I whisper my forbidden prayers. I hadn’t known.
She passed in her home on the shores of Lake Michigan, surrounded by the this vigil of friends and family. And though her daughter is older than my mother she is wounded to her core. I wanted to see Fran today, to sit and touch her papery hand, to witness and to bear this waiting, this Shiva with her family. And I am too late.
Fran has moved deeper into the love of God, probably much higher into that celestial campground than I can hope to be. Even now she is stoking a fire, listening to the echos of an angel choir on the island that houses the throne room of our God, occupying again the seat next to her husband, who’d been waiting for her. Who had prepared, as best he could, a campsite worthy of her. Colored owl lamps in the trees, a rug outside the camper to wipe one’s feet. Sharpened sticks at the ready for marshmallows or hotdogs. He’d been waiting.
When that young woman appears on the path I bet Fran will be right there, her generous smile drawing the woman in.
When I get tired I cry.
I sniffled all through our meeting today, as the retirement of our church school director was announced, this amazing woman with her trail of little ducklings coming to the altar rail. I sniffled as we gave our rector, and my brother, a much deserved standing ovation, as my church showed me how they sing.
We all sang the church’s one foundation today, no organ (gasp!), and I’d forgotten how we sing the first verse in unison and then break into parts on the following verses. Imagine my surprise then, in my hyper aware, hyper tired state, as we started the second verse and the man next to me picked up the lower part, and I could hear my friend Kelly on the alto line, all of these beautiful voices, all of us in harmony, at least for a moment.
And now the meeting is over, the new leadership elected, resolutions adopted, and I can’t get this vision of a woman in a man’s overcoat standing on a corner in the driving rain and raving like a lunatic of out my head.
I think I will work on a new project (because I need one right?). I think I will flesh out this campground, I think I will see what people live there and what they have to say. I think maybe God had a wife and her name was Wisdom.
I think I will sing at Fran’s funeral with the rest of the choir, and I will know that in all of this noise and work and toil God is speaking. And that there is a campground, and it has lights in the fir trees that come on at dusk, and at many of the campsites there is a single person waiting for the sound of a familiar step, a familiar laugh.
I’m not sure how it goes in this place. I’m not sure if pain and sighing will exist, but something tells me that this human condition needs both pain and light, sighing and singing, to really exist fully.
This morning was a long time ago, but I got up in the perfect dark. The moon shone on the building that houses the retired holy men and the questioning and questing vocational students.
And as I drove across the state, singing myself hoarse, I thought about you. And I thought about what I needed to say and about what you needed to hear. I thought about how I could help.
And the moon was so bright.
And I know that it seems like I write in code. But I believe to my core that every word I write is a letter, every post will hit you where it needs to. I believe that I am writing to the same people over and again, and I know who they are.
And I know who you are.
And I think that sometimes I am standing in the rain, in an overcoat, exhorting you to follow me into a world that you don’t understand.
I hope to sing my part of that secret chord.
My arms are spread and my robe is on and the floor is so cold on my face.
But I am waiting. Reporting for orders. Broken, only marginally militant.
And I love you still.