And two days later, I was at a funeral in Ojai. Deb was a colleague, a friend–full of life-esoteric, aesthetic and elegant. She was a woman of words and cared deeply about each one. She filled her life with them. She taught English, she sang in an Episcopal choir and she spoke with a resonance and grace I found alluring. It was there, on the altar at the church, where she was singing in rehearsal with the choir, that she suddenly passed away-singing hymns of praise and grace and gliding, as with one movement, into the hands of God.
On Dec. 4, the world was on fire–the terror and horror of catastrophe ripped through our county and while it is slowly coming under control, we are 21 days into it and still more than 1000 people are working on the Thomas Fire.
So this is Christmas…
Our pastor called Christmas eve “the thin space,” in between the long night of advent and the morning of hope that brings a savior, a peace and salvation unlike any other. And it was a rough-hewn acceptance of grace for which I was unready. Filled with the wails and tears of loss and what appeared random destruction and devastation, I find myself in the gully of my petty grievances and weaknesses. My anger and my sense of revenge topped the happiness. I got glimpses–Christmas lights and cold nights comforted by the closeness of my family, I could achieve smiles and even laughter at times. But in the back was the resounding reverberation of hard-hearted spite and righteous indignation.
But I was–I am–in that thin space. And I awoke this morning to the joy of the day with family around me and food, a roof overhead and the kindness of good and decent souls peering in across the miles of distance to wish the blessings that come with a day celebrated by those of us who believe there is something much more to this life. That thin space where Christ came into the world among a people so undeserving, so fixed against the quiet coos of a baby born in humble circumstances, is filled with expansive light.
There have always been catastrophes–some so great that the depth of human depravity reveals itself ferociously and anew, a raging fire that will not quench. And yet–there is the still-small-voice, the guiding light of a star and a quiet night amid the tumult of sadness and gracelessness that surrounds. How will we find it at all? How will we forgive and love those we, in our peevish judgment, deem unlovable? That must be the question that God asked, mustn’t it?
I have not yet returned to that comfort and that grace-but I find that I want to and that is a beginning.