Friday, April 27, 2012

Living in the In-betweens

A few weeks ago, my Greek class went out for coffee. Instead of the usual hour of wrestling with textual variants and translations, we spent time in conversation. As I enjoyed the usual rush of caffeine while watched my longtime classmates interact, I felt a deep, bittersweet ache: I am going to miss them.

I have realized that more and more, this school year. As most of you who have talked to me know, my placement at my University is far from ideal. There have been a lot of really bitter struggles in my time at LeTourneau, enough so that it used to make me feel incredibly trapped and sometimes angry. I eventually burned myself out, but I found grace when I let the ashes cool. And then somehow I began to be given blessings.

It is an odd kind of ache to be given blessings but to only experience them in part. There are finally people who I feel comfortable having conversations with. There are classes I enjoy. There are professors who have shown me unbelievable amounts of kindness. But I still don’t get to spend any time with people outside of the class setting. I don’t get to study most things I’m passionate about, the things that make my heart come alive, the things I would have chosen to study. I am still busy beyond the breaking point and so limited in how much I can do.

So I have these things in part, and I have just begun to have them, and now they are about to be taken away. I will graduate and move on just as I had finally begun to find safe places at school. And that is hard. The temptation is to be angry and bitter again, to let myself turn a hardened heart to my environment. It would make it easier to leave.

A hardened heart is not an option. And since it is not an option, I have to choose: I can either let myself mourn what I’m losing and what I never had, or I can embrace what I do have and choose to offer thanks for each moment, even with the bitter edge of regret. Yes, my world is changing. I will lose my stable workplace and my classmates and my professors and my life with my family. But I can’t cut my heartstrings loose, even when they are stretched nearly to breaking. Love requires a softer heart. Love requires me to keep my heart open, and grace requires me to keep my hands open to whatever I am given.

I think we get this idea that the fact we’re going to lose something means we shouldn’t ever really take hold of it at all. I see this attitude in relationships all the time (including in my own life almost constantly). If we convince ourselves that we’re going to lose people, that the relationship is really only temporary and it’s going to come to an end sooner rather than later, we can use it as an excuse to lock ourselves up. It becomes a reason for detachment, or fear. The problem is, you can’t love anyone that way. If you’ve put yourself in a room and closed and locked everyone on the other side of the door, how will you be able to get through the walls to give them something? For that matter, how will they be able to give you anything?

So how do we live now, in this tension, in these awkward in-betweens when we know losing something is a possibility or even a reality, when these days and hours can’t last? The conclusion I have reached as I face change, and losing things, and trying to get past regret, is the same conclusion I began to reach a year ago: we have to spend more time being thankful for what we have than regretting what we don’t. Yes, these things will soon be changed, but that doesn’t lessen in any way the value of what I have now. I have been given some incredible classmates and professors and classes and coworkers. I have found kindness this past year in places I never would have hoped for. I am certainly not going to be so ungrateful as to turn a hard heart to that now just because I’m losing it.

I think we are called to live in this gratitude, even when it’s not the easiest road. As I live these last days of college and say goodbyes and remember, I am trying so hard to have the grace to say thank you more often than anything else. This is a part of living fully alive... this grateful acceptance even in the face of loss.

I am going to miss my school. Not because it was in any way an ideal or an easy experience, but because I have received so many undeserved blessings in so many unexpected places from so many people. I am not going to let the reality of coming separation deny me the moments I have. I am so tired, but I am so grateful. And on the day of graduation, my prayer is that my gratitude will be greater than my regret.

- Elraen -

1 comment:

MangyCat said...

I love this phrase "grateful acceptance even in the face of loss." That is one to keep on my own heart as well. It's true that there is an acceptance that needs to come with knowing that, even if things are uncomfortable, God is in control and making choices that are in our best interest. And that is indeed something to be grateful for.