In an interview released yesterday, Eugene Peterson said if asked, he would officiate a gay marriage. As I am sure you can imagine, the internet exploded. While I agree with his position, that isn’t actually the part of the interview that brought me to tears. Instead, a bit further down the article, the interviewer spoke of endings. Mr. Peterson is 84 years old, reaching the end of a beautiful career and lifetime. The interviewer asked, “One day, as with all of us, Eugene Peterson will not be someone who exists. He will be somebody who did exist once. When that moment comes, how do you hope people will remember Eugene Peterson?”
What a question, eh? One day you will no longer exist. Here is a portion of his response…
“I haven’t been part of anything big. I’ve never been a big church preacher. I’ve never been on the radio or anything like that. I’m so pleased that people care about what I’ve done and support it because these are difficult times for the church. I’m quite aware of that. Anyway, I guess I’m just surprised that anyone would remember at all.”
This is where I cried. For a thousand reasons, this honest, gentle response touched my soul. Not three sentences earlier he uttered words that will echo across blogs and tweets and facebook rants for weeks to come, without changing much. No, it’s the gift of his long, consistently beautiful life which we will remember, and he didn’t do any of it for fame or recognition. This is beautiful.
Last week I told my husband, I feel I’ve written out all my bitterness. I still have things I am angry about, of course: injustice, 45, the ways we treat each other. These things make me angry, and they should. Anger is a catalyst for change; I hope I never lose it. But bitterness is anger we turn inward, hanging on to it like a trophy, to prove our rightness, our superiority. At some point, that feeling flowed out of my fingertips and disappeared. My heart feels buoyant, expansive, and filled with light.
I have changed. Nothing else about our situation has. I’m still checking the weather in other people’s cities. I’m still a misfit in a conformist culture. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I really haven’t figured out anything at all. But I understand myself better, and if that is the only thing I take away from the last 100 days, then it is worth the hours and days of effort I put into it.
But it isn’t my only takeaway, not at all. Writing for one hundred days has helped me rediscover my voice, the one I use to speak when I’m not defensive or wounded or (very) afraid. I learned to sit comfortably with fear, but not with silence, not anymore. I understand now that I am most powerful when I love well, and sometimes the best way to love well is to let go.
Most importantly, I know I am not alone. You all came with me. Maybe not every day, but you showed up. You spoke up. You let good enough be good enough on days when showing up was the best I could do. I didn’t take this journey alone. I hope that you may also have felt a bit less lonely you yourself. Deconstruction is a difficult, often isolating experience. It’s good to hear the voices of others to help you feel normal, sane or at the very least, not condemned. Like Eugene, I’m just surprised anyone cared enough to read at all. That’s the truth.
I love new beginnings. I always have. But endings? I haven’t always done well with those. Still, here we are. Together at the end, one hundred days later. It takes an ending to give birth to something else new.
There it is. Can you see it?