A week after that attack, I was in Harrisonburg returning a book to the local library for perhaps the last time, and internally, I was mourning the loss.
At this point, I had lived in Edinburg, a middle-of-nowhere country town about 40 minutes away, for almost 2 months, and I continued to mourn both my move away from the town I called home for the past 4 years and my graduation from seminary. I also continued to live into the transition of the new joys of my engagement to Bryce and a new job as a church secretary.
But the transitions, both the joyful and the heartbreaking, were still hard to navigate. Instead of feeling joy and excitement for the future ahead, I felt anxious, sad, and a bit miserable. I worried about my stress levels, my relationship with my fiance, my work competency, my adult competency, the unsettled state of the new house, our future wedding, and the upcoming Rally Day at my Episcopal congregation (which I had agreed to do when everyone else said we didn’t have to.)
Here I was in front of my beloved Harrisonburg library, realizing I would probably never check out books from it again, and I felt the deepness of this loss weighing upon me with all of the others.
So as I walked away from the library, mourning the loss of my past home and fearing what the future held, I once again cried out to God, and once again, it contained a lot of frustration.
Excuse you, God, but why does everything feel uncertain and scary?
I want you to tell me that everything will be OK.
Actually, no…I want more than that. I want you to guarantee that everything will be more than OK. I want everything to be perfect, because if it’s not, then it’s wrong.
I thought if I followed you, things would go well for me, but I’m beginning to realize this was never part of the promise, and that irks me.
So where is the happiness and the guarantee for things to go well? Why won’t you promise me that much?
Believe it or not, I got an answer, but it wasn’t one I liked.
The answer was this:
There is no guarantee for things to be perfect, because I have called you to die, and you continue to see death and dying as imperfect and wrong. You continue to cling to the hopes, dreams, fears, and failures to which I call you to die every day.
I have called you to die in order to enter everlasting life, but I didn’t say this life would be easier. Those deaths will lead you to life, but not the one you expected.
You have to learn to die in order to live, to let go of your enslavement to your own expectations in order to live into the beautiful, terrible reality that is real human life.
Here it was: the call to let go and learn to open my arms and let life be what it is. This is a call to die to my desire to be perfect, my desire to be God, and my seeming need to control my life and the lives of others.
I know it is so very necessary, and I also know it is so very difficult.
This is where church actually helps me, though.
Each week at Emmanuel Episcopal, as we prepare to receive the Eucharist, the priest tells the story of the Last Supper, and when he finishes the story, the congregation is asked to proclaim the mystery of our faith. And as a group, we chant:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
It’s not a mantra I only say on Sunday. It’s what I have to tell myself every single time I want to be the one in control, when I refuse to die to myself and my ways. Every day I have to tell myself:
As Christ has died, so must I die. As Christ has risen, so will I rise. As Christ is returning to us, so will I return to this life and the life to come.
Thanks be to you, God. Now please, help me be a bit more OK with this.