I’m a sentimental person. Not so much the sappy or weepy type, although I’m certainly not immune. What I’m about is comprehension, connecting dots and big pictures; and each of these come alive for me via meaning. (I often observe out loud, which my husband loves. This is evidenced by the look on his face. “Are you speaking in tongues?” asks his jaded expression.) I attach meaning to and search for meaning in just about everything. I link events and epiphanies, which causes me to draw deeper meaning and more profound understanding of how things in my life and in the world are mysteriously (read: providentially) connected.
Anniversaries are pregnant with meaning for me. I’m mindful as they approach, and when the day arrives I’m laden with need for post-hoc conversation. So, considering what September 1 was, I’m surprised that a 2-year-old post on Facebook had to rouse me. “On this day in 2009 you posted…” It is an anniversary that I thought would always be notable.
September 1 was my first day of work with my former congregation in 2004. I used to wish the fine folks happy anniversary each year when this date rolled around, smiling at the faces in the pews like a happy spouse. They in turn beamed back at me. We all cooed at each other. After 5 1/2 years, though, our union was no more. I was burnt out; mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted; and wondering how the wheels came off. Gone from my position for 6 months, September 1, 2010 hit me like a ton of bricks. Who am I, I wondered, if not a religious professional? My family and I stood on Christ the solid rock, but everything else in my life was as firm as flowing water. Fast forward 365 days. I was happily doing my various stay-at-home Mom and budding author things, unaware (until reminded) of the anniversary. What does it mean that I forgot? My brow furrowed involuntarily as I pondered. Hours passed.
It must mean that I thought less of my time as a pastor and my ministry with my former congregation, or that the experience was less significant than I believed it to be. 7-years-ago Me would have made this assumptive leap in logic. I know better now. Forgetting such an anniversary makes one unfeeling and negligent about as much as as remembering makes one morally superior and emotionally appropriate. There is something more happening within me, something new.
“This is the way God put it: ‘You found grace out in the desert, you who survived the killing. Angie, out looking for a place to rest met God out looking for her!’ God told her, ‘I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again, dear daughter Angie. You’ll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance'” (Jer 31: 2-6, The Message; personal references mine).
Healing. Rejuvenation. Moving on with life. To live in the present moment with abandon, dancing joyfully and boundlessly before the Lord as I never have is a gift from the Giver of all good things. I didn’t forget the people, the ministry that we did together or even the tough times. I forgot to be sad. (And for once in my life, I didn’t force somber remembrance upon myself out of a whacked sense of obligation and affective propriety.) This is progress. Sometimes forgetting can be a sign of grief well processed.
The Lord gave, and the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.