Hi. Me again. I wish I could say I woke up this morning hungover from the revelries of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but I was in bed by 10 last night. Instead, I woke up with what Brene Brown refers to as a “vulnerability hangover.” Last night was the first time, perhaps since I was four, that I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. That’s always been an uncompromisable tradition for me, but this year, I simply couldn’t muster the will.
In reflecting this morning with a little more clarity and grace, I understood something deeply significant.
Last New Year’s Eve, I built a candlelit labyrinth in my backyard and invited friends to walk it before midnight. I wanted the evening to be contemplative and intentional. I wanted, literally, to create a clear path forward, into light and hope and love.
Three weeks later, my brother committed suicide and my life spiraled into an uncontrollable mess of chaos. Wave after wave of destruction washed out every path I had created.
I went for a long run this morning, and when I returned, I was overtaken by deep, uncontrollable sobs. They were not the woe-is-me pity of yesterday’s post, but rather, a release of something that had become pent up. I realized, immediately, how much I had been dreading the exchange of the New Year. Not because I didn’t want 2020 to end (believe me, I REALLY wanted 2020 to end), but because I had unknowingly built up some deep sort of dread toward the month of January. I lost my brother. My whole world changed. It is now a scary and slightly unwelcome month.
Yesterday’s post was ugly. It was a deeply gratuitous wallow in self-pity. It was soul-killing and poisonous. It was a stone-cold throwing in of the towel. It was the 38 year-old equivalent of a five year-old’s temper tantrum.
That’s what the judgy monkey on my shoulder taunted when I woke up this morning.
The compassionate one suggested it might be a reflection that I have veered into a dangerous territory of hopelessness and despair. I have always told my students that the greatest threat humanity faces is hopelessness. Hopelessness, inevitably, is spurred by one of two things: a loss of purpose or the inability to believe that things will ever get better. Right now, I’m grappling with both.
I mentioned my favorite chapter from the Bible in one of my earliest posts. It is the very first chapter…
“When Elohim began to create heaven and earth, the earth then was tohu wabohu and darkness was upon the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the face of the waters.”
Tohu means nothingness, futility. Wabohu has been best translated as welter and waste.* Welter… a chaotic mass of jumbled disorder, turmoil. Waste… as a noun,… careless purposelessness.
In the beginning, there was something. But it was chaotic and disordered. It held no purpose or direction. It was futile in its existence. This is where we began, in the worst possible state of affairs. This is the very place where God arrived, hovering over the deep. He observed the chaos and futility and darkness, and in its place created order and purpose and light.
What I meant to say in yesterday’s post is that my life is a chaotic mess of jumbled disorder. It feels purposeless and futile. What I meant to say is that I am having trouble finding hope that it will once again hold utility and direction. What I meant to say is that everywhere I look, there seems to be a black void of darkness.
What I didn’t have the strength to say… is that the Spirit of God is here, hovering over the deep of my life. He will re-order it. He will illuminate his purpose. He is present.
I do know that to be true. And as much as I feel alone in the darker moments, he is here. And many of you have been as well. You have encouraged, sent support, sent love, offered guidance, offered an ear. Even if I sit down in the mud from time to time and pitch a fit, I am still grateful for all of it.
So today, on January 01 of 2021, I want to say loudly and definitively…
Not the end. The beginning.
*welter and waste comes from Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis, the most accurate and beautiful translation I have encountered thus far.