Saturday, March 24, 2012

But I'm Not Finished Yet

Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit or bless others' lives

I wonder at the lesson:  a cathedral will often take hundreds of years to build--longer to complete than a lifetime.  And I wonder at the workers lifting stone and paint and glass who dipped their hands momentarily into that work knowing they would not live long enough to see what their work had accomplished.  I put my finger on the lie that says unless we see a thing in its fullness, it is not worth making.  And I step away from that kind of dying that makes us quiet and depressed, stripped of our gifts and the blessing of our work, that which God placed before us and the tools He planted within us to lend a hand. 

I think our lives are a little like these cathedrals and we are like these cathedral builders, the ones who will not see all of our work completed.  But then, if we are doing God's work, would it not make sense that our work would extend beyond the finite, human years we count?

If we can't see a thing finished, how can it be perfect?

My great grandmother baked a cake she didn't know would be served at her own wake.  And I wonder at the family that came before me and tasted the sweetness of her work after she had gone.  And I have seen that same sweetness in my grandma and in my mom.  At times with Nora, I see it shining through me and into her heart.

There have been some endings lately:  a good friend and colleague who will be leaving her work at Concordia after 24 years of building and serving, the news of my ex-husband's engagement, my grandma's diagnosis of breast cancer.  And I find myself asking God if the work in each of these situations is complete, and I wonder at the tears and what seeds they could be watering right now as I type this. 

Sometimes change seems unbearable, so difficult to put into place within the plans we all draw, the designs of our cathedrals.  Was the thing being made in each of these circumstances complete?  When I look back at my marriage, hold it in my hands from start to finish, is that a finished thing?  Can I walk away without grieving for how I wasn't able to love strong enough or hold on, without grieving mostly for Nora who will live with my choices as much as I have had to live with my choices?  Can I look beyond that grief and see, perhaps, a seed planted in his life, one that will grow into something stronger, healthier because of what we have learned?

Can we, as teachers, walk away without knowing without a doubt that, as Oscar Romero writes, "We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities.  We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that...We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker.  We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.  We are prophets of a future that is not our own."

When I saw Grandma over break, we didn't say good bye, Aunt Dottie reminding us as we three stood holding hands, "Just remember, girls, this isn't good bye."  And there was a lightness in my Grandma's face, a joy, a sense of completion even as she had to leave before seeing all the fruits of her love and of her labor.

And I see it is not a matter of letting go at all, but of seeing the seed in each of these circumstances, the one that will bloom into something God's hand is upon as long as I am willing to water what has been planted with these tears willingly. 


  1. There's that question mark again.We don't know what's on the other side of tomorrow, but we ask ourselves how we want to be remembered and what we want as a legacy and we live that desire out in the moments and hours and make up each day so that when our time as a builder here is over we know what we left behind and we know we spread out a foundation of love for others to stand on. love you.

  2. I'm so sorry these endings have come in your life. They certainly aren't easy, but as I'm learning myself, some of the most terrible endings lead to better things, things we never would have discovered otherwise, things within ourselves we were too afraid to unleash before. You are definitely building that foundation for Nora and for each and every one of your students. You're a blessing to us all :) Keep your head up.