It's early Saturday morning. One of my kids just drove off to take the SAT and another is about to start a day of skiing with her dad. I was looking through a neglected pile of papers on my desk earlier and I came across an envelope Coco gave me for Valentine's Day. It contains $30 and a note: "This is for you to give to the food shelf. Happy Valentine's Day Mamma." The third child just texted me: "Leaving Pisa now." Sam worked hard this winter and saved enough money so he could realize one of his dreams: skiing in Europe. I cannot wait to gather him up in Montreal tomorrow morning. To hear all about his travels and to hug the heck out of him.
I'm not really sure where all that offspring awesomenoscity came from, but I love it. Man, do I love it.
I'm sitting here on my bed, looking out the big window at the mountains in the distance. I was thinking, the other day, about the things that I will miss about this place after we've left, and I realized something great. I thought about how much I have loved the trees in the yard and the way the morning sun looks, rising up from behind the hills in the distance. I have loved the ways my kids and I have been here, happy and together. And I have loved Henry, the benevolent spirit who has watched over us since we got here. I realized, quite happily, that those things will go with me wherever I go --that the things I have cherished most about this time and place have nothing to do with a building and everything to do with life.
I have thought a lot, during these days of packing and hauling, of how we become attached to our things. And how, really, ultimately the things don't mean that much at all. Sure, some stuff carries stories, and that's great, but mostly we just gather a lot of stuff in this life; we fill our spaces with things we don't really need. And then those things start to own us. We worry that something will happen to them, or that someone will take them. We clean them and reposition them. We spend our days in slavery to the things we "own."
When, really, what we mostly need are people, with their adventures and their stories. And mountains and sunrises. And Henrys.
I've been working on my sermon for next Sunday. It's based on the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew, where Jesus is basically telling his disciples...listen, you have got to take care of each other..."Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." It's a message that appears over and over in the stories of Jesus' teachings: anyone who wants to be the most important has to be the least important. The stories teach us that there is power in letting go and grace to be found in caring for the least of our fellow humans: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick.
Richard Rohr adds this as part of the deal: "The self we need to let go of is our falsely concocted identity so that the True Self, or the self we eternally are in God, can then naturally emerge."
There is a very funny thing happening in my life right now. In an almost eerie confluence of events, it has become time for us to leave this house right when the sweetest church in the world has offered me a position as their pastor. It's as if God is saying....off we go...pack up all these silly mugs and linens and get them out of the way; there's work to be done.
I know it's very hard to let go of everything we believe to be important, everything we want to own, everything we have been told matters. In a world where we have been raised to believe that success is measured in ownership of square footage, horsepower and the latest fanciful spring outfit from J. Crew. How do we even begin to live differently? When we have spent a lifetime gathering things and shoring up our "self"? We're supposed to get rid of all this junk, stop seeking a life of luxury and leisure and spend our days helping each other? Seriously?
I know it's hard to put faith in something we cannot see. I know that's a lot for some folks to take, all the God talk and the trust, the belief in the blessings, often disguised as challenges.
I have been reading The Count of Monte Cristo with one of my students. It truly is one of the greatest stories ever written and you should read or re-read it soon. Edmond Dantès, the kind-hearted and trustworthy main character, is wrongfully imprisoned and forced to live for many years under horrible conditions, in a cold stone cell. Six years into it, on the verge of suicide, he meets fellow-prisoner, Abbé Faria, who is a wise and funny teacher. As Faria is dying, he gives Dantès advice for the time when he gains his freedom:
"Here is your final lesson - do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, "Vengeance is mine." To which Dantès replies, "I don't believe in God."
"It doesn't matter," Faria whispers, "God believes in you."