My last weekend home was intense.
Images of the suffering in Haiti haunted me day and night, impairing sleep.
On Saturday morning, we attended the funeral of a young man whose hidden despair had caused him to end his brilliant life. That night, we went back to the same church, the church of my childhood, for the beautiful wedding of a bride of the same age. Life and Death juxtaposed in sharp outline. Joy and Grief. Celebration and Mourning.
The last wedding I had attended in that church was Katherine’s. My husband and I were married there almost 33 years ago.
In between the two events, I went to the annual gathering of some friends I’ve had for (literally) 50 years.
The torrential downpour that raged on unabated throughout the day added atmospheric intensity to that of the internal.
Exhausted, I fell asleep that night anticipating the peace that would surely envelop me like a warm cocoon the next morning at the sweet little church we currently attend.
Three minutes into the sermon, a man collapsed in the aisle. With racing hearts, the congregation quietly cried and prayed as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. As the EMT’s lifted the man up, I allowed myself for the first time to picture the scene of my own child on a stretcher.
(Thank you, God, for EMT’s.)
The pastor came up to me afterwards and told me he was sorry we didn’t get to hear the sermon, as he had spoken of Katherine in it. I was sorry, too.
That afternoon, I was frazzled as I packed. Too many last-minute things to do, not enough time or energy left for it. Sooooo many plans and projects left undone. Revelations over the weekend had given me fresh fodder for worry. Thoughts of what I would face back in LA gave me sick butterflies in my stomach.
We had to get up at 5:00 to make the flight. I felt raw and edgy.
I brought the weather west with me. The plane landed in a monsoon. It’s supposed to continue at least all week. Welcome back to sunny LA.
Unpacking, I discovered that I’ve forgotten one of the only indispensable items: euphemistically referred to as my “sleep aid.”
The Sleep Monster and I spent the night wrestling. He won battles at 1:00, 2:30, 3:15. When my Iphone illuminated 4-something, I tried some contemplative prayer.
Still no peace. Squirrels in the head competed with the loud aches and pains crying out for attention.
I have so many things to worry about that I’m worried I’ll forget some of them if I don’t keep worrying.
I prayed again:
Okay, so here I am, Lord, at 5-something in the morning. I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mac truck. Everything’s chaos. There are so many people I am desperately concerned about. My heart is heavy and flitting around at the same time. So many unknowns, uncertainties. So many things to fear. So much pain. And I brought the crappy weather with me. You know how I hate this kind of weather. I feel like I’m in Narnia, where it’s always winter and never Christmas.
I get nothing.
I open the drawer of the bedside table and rumble around for some nose spray. Instead, I find a book I’ve been searching for months, one I feared left behind in a seat pocket on a plane. It was given to me by a friend who has an eerie ability to say exactly what I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it. Like she’s got a private line upstairs.
It is The Furious Longing of God, by one of my favorite saved sinners, Brennan Manning.
In the first chapter, I read:
I believe that Christianity happens when men and women experience the reckless, raging confidence that comes from knowing the God of Jesus Christ…
The shattering truth of the transcendent God seeking intimacy with us is not well-served by gauzy sentimentality, schmalz, or a naked appeal to emotion, but rather in the boiling bouillabaisse of shock bordering on disbelief, wonder akin to incredulity, and affectionate awe tinged by doubt… The furious longing of God is beyond our wildest desires, our hope or hopelessness, our rectitude or wickedness, neither cornered by sweet talk nor gentle persuasion… I am witness to the truth that Abba still whispers:
“Come, then, my beloved, my lovely one, come
For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come,
The cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree is forming it’s first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come, then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.”
(Song of Songs 2:10-13, njb)
Putting the book down, I try to pray again: Say something to me, God. Calm me down. Tell me everything’s gonna be okay.
Nothing but silence.
I drag myself up and fix coffee. Since I’m already feeling jagged and jittery, might as well intensify the feeling so it’ll burn itself out.
Get back in bed with my coffee and start writing this, not knowing where it’s going, what the point is.
And I hear…
Smack dab in the middle of urban Los Angeles, a block and a half from the skyscrapers on Wilshire Boulevard, in the still moments just before dawn…a turtledove coos it’s lovely love song three times.
I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.
That’s all that matters.
(For any ornithologsts out there, what I heard was most likely a North American mourning dove, also known as a Western or Carolina Turtledove.)