Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Pain of Hope

In this blog I’ve been writing about the possibility of change in my life.  I’ve been anticipating the unexpected as my husband and I think about a new career for him and where that might lead us, envisioning us in a new community and a new home.  I have been hopeful and excited, even when my own plans haven’t seemed to materialize.  I trust that God has something better in mind.
I have been in Nashville this week completing a two-year program for pastors I began when I was leading a local church.  This program was designed for pastors fairly new to ministry who wanted companions on their journeys, people who understood that God designed us for community and wanted to live that out in their ministries.  I couldn’t have predicted two years ago that my journey would lead out of local church pastorate, but it did.  First to finish my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, and then into waiting for the next right thing.
While I have been reconnected with these Companions in Ministry, my extended family (whom I haven’t written about because their story is not necessarily mine to tell) has been gathered in its own sort of community.  A family journeying with medical staff formed a community of care and concern while one of our beloved suffers the tragedy of contracting West Nile Virus from an organ transplant.  The past months we have been hopeful.  Hopeful that there would be a definitive diagnosis, treatment and cure.  And when that couldn’t happen, hopeful that he would qualify for a transplant, receive one, and go on to live a healthy life with his wife.

Last night I spoke with my husband to find out that our dear one has no hope of recovery, no hope for any quality of life.  Just last week, before the virus had taken its terrible toll, the doctors and family all had hope for a full recovery.  In our closing worship service in Nashville this morning, Trevor Hudson, an amazing spiritual pastor from South Africa, who had been talking to us about the gospel themes of friendship, spoke of hope, and how devastating it is when hope brings us pain.  He didn’t have a clue about my family circumstances, but he could have been speaking right to us.  When our dashed hopes bring us to deep pain, it is there in our suffering that we struggle to claim a deeper even richer hope.
I thought about my family in California.  In the next few days, after we have all had a chance to say goodbye, life support will be removed and then, horrible as it seems we will hope for death.  A good death. And beyond that, what will we hope for?  I will hope for the grieving spouse a reserve of inner strength, the companioning of family and friends, the ability to walk into the darkness and not be consumed by it, the image of God’s light, however it comes to her, to carry her through the days, months, and years ahead as she lives out a life she did not expect or plan for.
In the meantime, we cry for our loss, for all we are going to miss and are just beginning to sense, and for the loss our dear one has suffered.  And in the pain of hope, I am thankful for the small mercies.  That neither my husband nor I have jobs, that our house has not sold, that we are still home in the same small town where our extended family lives, that we can be present in some small way to honor their lives and their suffering and their hope as family, as companions in our communal life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I flew on Thursday.  Not in my dreams.  Not parachuting from a plane, which would’ve terrified me.  Indoors at IFLY SF Bay.  I flew in a wind tunnel.  I hovered three feet off the ground buffeted at 160 miles per hour.  And I loved every second of my two short rides, especially when my instructor grabbed onto my flight suit, leaped into the air and we zoomed from my three foot hover up into the tube, fifteen to twenty feet off the ground in a lovely arc. 

My flying experience was not simply an item completed on my Bay Area bucket list, but spiritually fitting and educational.  I shared the day with my dear friend I wrote about in a previous entry who has been on the path in front of me, modeling what it means to step out in faith past the familiar into the unknown, and trust that God, like our flight instructor Jason, will line you up to soar.  And there we were, clad in jumpsuits, goggles, and helmets, stepping into the wind and flying into something brand new.  We each flew alone, with our instructor, but as we did, we saw our friend, just outside the door, cheering and applauding, encouraging our bravery and effort.  I model for friendship and life.

Flying in the wind tunnel, I also learned that each small movement, bending the knees, raising the chin, adjusting the arms, has dramatic results.  Your feet might slip out into the waiting bay, or yours arms might touch the Plexi-glass.  If you look down and fail to arch your back, you might float inches above the floor, and need to be raised up by your experienced instructor.

I usually think of flying as a metaphor, as a bold, daring leap.  Before my indoor skydiving experience, I’d never considered flying as something a human would train for.  But that’s exactly what skydivers–-the closest we wingless bipeds get to flying––do.  They train in wind tunnels.  They learn optimal body positions and strengthen the necessary muscles.  They take classes and fork over lots of money to lean into turbo wind and practice.  They develop skills, and if they’re acrobatic, like my instructor, they zoom up and down the wind tube at speeds reminiscent of Superman, and walk along the walls like Spiderman throwing invisible silk for balance.  Like all great athletes, they make it look easy. 

The professionals make it look so easy, that people like me--craving joy and exhilaration––are tempted to hurl themselves into the air, without training or practice.  I would love to fly in waking life the way I do in my dreams, with grace and ease.  After our flights, with our adrenaline coursing and Cheshire cat-sized grins, Jason seized upon our enthusiasm to inform us of the classes we could enroll in the packages we could by.  We nodded, and I would’ve signed up right then, except that the tunnel is pricey and more than an hour’s drive from my house, and as I calmed down a bit, I that my house is on the market, remembered my husband is looking for work, and if I really think about it, I don’t want to be an expert wind tunnel flyer.  It was fabulous fun, but it’s not my passion.

We never know where our passion will take us.  When I think about my husband’s career in the corporate sector, it has always been about the philanthropic efforts of the companies.  He has both supported and envisioned their efforts to improve the lives of ordinary people in this country and around the world.  We had been looking exclusively in the SF Bay area for opportunities where he could continue to work out of this passion, and then late last week, a man who used to work with Kevin, contacted him and is acting as his personal recruiter, recommending him for a position in the Corporate Citizenship group of the largest software company in the world.  That job is in Washington State, and so we are imagining what our life might look like if he were to be offered the position.

There are times when I think my Internet research is obsessive.  I downloaded maps of bike paths, snowplow routes, and daily traffic volume in the city that is corporate headquarters.  My husband and I searched Redfin for homes in our price range, and are thinking about taking a trip there in November.  Our preparations might be pointless.  Or they might be the necessary steps that will enable us to fly when the opportunity presents itself.  Right now, only God knows, but I’ll adjust my goggles anyway.