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Shape Shifting: How we roll with the changes
I was driving through town last week on our first near-80 degree day of the year, noticing people in tank tops and shorts, out walking in the sun as if the apocalypse had just ended. I felt them all saying This is sunshine and I like sunshine and please don’t take my sunshine away.
This is Oregon and we freak a little over sun in the spring.
It’s funny to me how we can suddenly bust out pale limbs and sandaled-feet at the first sign of sun. I wondered if everyone had their tanks and shorts at-the-ready, waiting for this day, or did they dig them out of storage boxes, shove their sweaters and boots in in their place, and set their iced tea pitchers out on the porch in a grand proclamation: We are done with winter.
I was anxious to get home and enjoy the sun myself, and it felt like every single person around had a similar mood—a hopeful feeling to contribute to the warmth of this foreign orb. You could feel it in the store and see it in the street. We had something in common, something to unite us under this one sun, however brief it might be.
The next day it thundered. Dark clouds collected out of the blue, and my husband and I ended up in a humid rainstorm on our way to the nursery to get dirt for the garden and a tree for the yard. We wandered around the nursery, just the two of us in the tropics, dampened but undeterred.
I was fine with winter and rain and fog until the sun started to reveal itself, until I felt its heat and remembered its hope.
This is what always happens. We shape-shift between our tank tops and our sweaters, we open the windows and set out the patio table, and the next day we rush to bring the chair cushions in from the downpour.
This is how we dare to expose and burn our palest organ, forgetting that this sun is dangerous and our skin is fragile; and we make soup and turn the thermostat up the next day.
This is how we change. We make plans and mistakes and small talk about the weather, as if that was what mattered.
There is this awkward moment of change at church where, in the space between worship music and the sermon, we pass the mic for announcements. We’ve literally passed a microphone around the church since the days when there were only 30 of us, and now there are several hundred. It’s awkward because of life and death, sickness and health, all the shapes we’re shifting into as a body. It’s a free fall into the life of Christ’s own body, a hands-free, scary roller-coaster, because you can’t control what people might say.
One family is celebrating and another mourns; one has information and another is in need of help; there’s extra produce by the door for anyone who needs it; my 7th great-grandchild was born; my father has cancer; we’re getting married. Highs and lows and information all cram into this space and we rejoice, we weep, we jot notes and mark dates.
I sometimes want this to end. I want the elders to call a truce with the announcements, to just mark them in the bulletin like “normal churches” and forego the awkwardness of births and deaths and sicknesses and healings called out, one after another, without a smooth transition.
But these are prayers.
These are aches and arcs in our living, breathing, awkward lives, and reminders that moments bleed into one another. We are unable to separate life from death or to pack our heartache away for a season of joy. Everything rolls together and our best attempt at entering into each other’s lives on a Sunday morning—our effort to be the church, rather than go to church—is to share our moments.
It’s imperfect and that fits.
When I walk sometimes I photograph the trees and plants in my mind’s eye, because I want to notice the change. I want to appreciate the bare bones of winter, the fog stuck like smoky gauze in the pines, the gray. I want to see the contrast and view the darkness and the light with equal wonder: this is just a moment and I like the moment and it’s going away.
Remember this very moment. I have memorized specific moments of my life: dinner with family, my children as infants, cartwheels of my youth, specific stopping places in my mind that I can go back to as a reference point in a spinning world. I know I’ll never be poor with these treasures. I forget a lot, but I keep erecting new memorial stones in place of all that’s dampened and dissolved and disheveled.
It’s ok that moments go away.
The moments now and the moments past and all the future, unlived, unprepared-for moments have a common denominator, the Divine Response telling us we are not cast away from a love that endures change. A season is just a portal we trip through to the next, and God sees to it that we escape through change, not from it.
So keep rolling with the changes, friends. The sun may shine today and instead of living tomorrow’s rainstorm, we ought to poke out pale limbs and take mental snapshots. Pass the mic. See the moment.
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