church, grief, ministry, sabbatical, suffering

Open Wound

When I’m in a crowd of people I don’t know, it’s easy to feel okay. I’m not seeing myself reflected in their eyes. I don’t recall times of joy or pain shared with these people. In some ways I’m invisible and that makes my pain feel less intense.

However, when I’m with one person I know – I’m not talking about crowds anymore, I’m talking about one person. I’m talking about any person with whom I’ve shared any part of my life. All of the sudden everything feels more intense. I can see my pain reflected in her eyes. I can remember times that we’ve shared laughter and tears. All of the sudden that open wound – the one that is nowhere near healing – is pressed upon because I’m no longer invisible. I am seen and in being seen my pain cannot be hidden. And that’s just with one person…

In just a few weeks my sabbatical will be over. Under normal circumstances this could understandably produce some anxiety. The return to work, to responsibility, to routine, to the unknown – there is much to return to. However, under my current circumstances it’s more than anxiety. I can already feel the pressing of their love up against my open wound – not just one person, but many. They won’t mean to cause me pain, but just by looking at me, by hugging me, by being excited for my return, I will feel everything more intensely.

This is hard to explain. How is it that when I think about seeing them I start to cry? How is it that when I think about saying hello or attempting to answer, “how was your sabbatical?” I shut down inside? I want to see their faces and feel their hugs and yet… I don’t. But I don’t know how to explain it in a way that makes any sense. My rational side says this doesn’t make any sense. But, my broken heart understands it completely.

I wish I could go to church – my church, which is also my job – with an invisibility cloak. I wish I could sit in that space and just cry. I’ve missed my church so much in the past few weeks. I’ve missed the liturgy and the hymns and the music. I’ve missed the comfort of the space. I’ve missed the presence of the people. But, when I return, I’m not just returning to my church – I’m also returning to my job. I think the invisibility cloak would let me return to one first and let the other wait a bit longer. The invisibility cloak would give me space to grieve in the sanctuary I’ve called mine for the past eight years. The invisibility cloak would let me start to scab over a bit so that when I do look in their eyes and welcome their hugs maybe it wouldn’t hurt quite so much.

But, that is only a wish, not a reality. The reality is at some point soon I will have to walk into a space that serves many purposes in my life and I will attempt to separate those purposes, even just a little bit. It’s not likely that I’ll be able to do this, but maybe I can try. But not yet. I still have time to just be. I still have time to take each day as it is with no judgment or expectation. I still have time to let myself be present in my grief – whatever that may look like day to day. I still have time…



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