Faith · family

Lent 2018

My sister messaged me yesterday, “…about Tuga… has he returned to your pocket, or was he so last year?”

Tuga, the little brown bunny who stayed in my pocket for Lent 2017 as a reminder of the sorrow in the world, is not so last year. He’s so in Bosnia.

I have other Tugas. Three sets, as a matter of fact, of Tuga and Aleluja, sitting on my shelf. One set is promised to someone. The other two are at-the-ready, for when I meet someone who needs a mindfulness token of sorrow and joy.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, has had new meaning for me since 2014. That year, early in the morning of Ash Wednesday, my sister called with the news that my oldest brother had unexpectedly passed away after a heart attack.

Yesterday I read through some of the posts I had written in the subsequent days. Most are private now — as in, you can’t read them; I took them down because they were too personal — but the Ash Wednesday one is public.

When I’m telling someone about Stewart, I almost always refer to him as brilliant. Hamilton College undergrad — their first Russian Studies major. Yale Divinity School for his M. Div. and then Syracuse Law for his J.D. He had a home computer before that was a thing — like in 1983. He had set it up to run tessellations — which, of course, has nothing to do with Russian or Divinity or Law.

In the last few years of Stewart’s life I had been frustrated with him.  He had been nearly job-less, doing pulpit supply and seemingly little else. Every month my father sent him money to pay his rent.

In the meantime, I was running myself ragged, driving back and forth between Greene and Cooperstown, trying to help my father take care of my mother.

“Why can’t Stewart move in with Mom and Dad?” I griped to my sister. “He could be of real help to them and Dad wouldn’t have to keep sending him money.”

It irked me.

It seemed unfair.

But when Stewart died, and I met the many people whose lives had been touched by Stewart’s, I realized that I only knew part of the story. Stewart lived in a low-income area. He drove neighbors to doctor’s appointments and listened to their lives. His congregation gathered every evening in the apartment complex’s gazebo.

“That’s where Stewart sat,” one lady told us, pointing to a bench at one of the picnic tables. “He was always here for us.”

He had a church, unrecognized by anyone, because it was so informal, yet so personal. It didn’t pay the bills. It paid in intangibles.

I couldn’t see it — I don’t think anyone could — until he was gone, and we slowly unknotted the knot that was his life.

In his book, Great Lent, my Lenten reading for this year, Alexander Schmemann said,

If God loves every man it is because He alone knows the priceless and absolutely unique treasure, the “soul” or “person” He gave every man. There is no “impersonal” love because love is the wonderful discovery of the “person” in “man,” of the personal and unique in the common and general. It is the discovery of the unique in each man of that which is “lovable” in him, of that which is from God.

I looked around my room this morning for something to carry in my pocket for Lent. Tuga had been a good companion last year, but I wanted something to remind me of the hidden person, the God in each person I meet.

I settled on a Monkey’s Fist that had been sitting on my dresser. It probably belongs to one of my children — but it’s mine for this season. A knot, the heart of which is hidden from me.

Wikipedia says, “Monkey’s fists are commonly used as a convenient and unobtrusive method of storing and transporting precious gemstones.” What can be more precious than God?

God wears a costume of human flesh. He’s in the guy at the gas station, and the friend that encourages me.

But He’s also hiding somewhere in the woman who irritates me, and the man sitting on the couch in the other room, rifling through papers again and again.

I’m going to be on the lookout for Him.

7 thoughts on “Lent 2018

  1. Oh my …. this is such a lesson in not judging the cover, such a lesson in searching for purpose, such a lesson in reflection, in pain, in the horror of too late and a lesson in acceptance that regret is futile but allowing ourselves to learn and improve cannot be. I thank your brother, Stewart for the lessons he has taught me through your words. Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, i received unexpected news of the death of an old friend. Yesterday I was bewildered, befuddled and berating myself for the could haves and should haves that are now evaporated into the pool of pointless wonderings. This Lenten period, I will carry the lessons learned and I will search for the meaning in the way things are – they are there, I just need to search and be open to the finding. As ever I thank you – you unfuddled me somewhat 🙏

  2. Yesterday, we lost seventeen precious people, each of whom God knew beyond measure and loves entirely. And still living is another soul, who is desperately, achingly lost…angry and empty and lost. And God loves him too, beyond measure and entirely. Oh God, give us eyes to see through Your eyes, and love from You that wins the desperate and eases suffering.

  3. So beautiful, dear Sally. Words of life. Especially the part about the church your brother pastored, who could not afford to “hire” him, and how God used your Dad’s blessing to pay his way! Augh!! it brought tears to my eyes. Your Dad was taking his part in a masterpiece seen only after your brother died! How like our God to hide the details of how the orchestra fits together. Oh, may we be mindful that our ways are not Gods’ ways and His purposes are so much bigger than what we could possible see on the outside. Your Monkeys Knot is also a powerful symbol! Blessings over you this lent season. ~ Lorna

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