Embraced Endings

_MG_5084In October, as we said our goodbyes in Minnesota, it felt like dying. This is partly because I had no deep conviction that the goodbye was temporary, and partly because it multiplied all the other goodbyes my heart has endured and settled with them an overwhelming sense of loss. Permanent loss.

Three months later I sit in our small flat in Kolkata, swollen-eyed and heavy-hearted by the same sense of loss. We have found a home here. We have been welcomed into a community of people who are in every way our “tribe.” We have bridged relationships with women at Sari Bari. I have lost my heart to love – imperfect, at times self-seeking – but love nonetheless.

I love Sarah and Melissa and the WMF staff at Sari Bari. I love sweet S-, my dear friend, and fierce T-, gentle A-, playful N- and mysterious S-. I love Sh-’s sweet patience. I love A- though she’s rough around the edges and B- though I think she’d sometimes prefer to do her work without me. I love J-’s kind friendship, B-’s quiet strength, P-’s youthful spark, A-’s rough-yet-gentle presence. I love that Ch- sings along to the “retro radio station” and R- performs impromptu song-and-dance numbers…

I did not expect this.

I did not expect to be so overwhelmed by love. I did not expect to find a community that we fit so well. I did not expect so much of what now fills my heart.

In short, I found a home.

But I must also acknowledge that in two days’ time we leave. We must say goodbye once again. And like our goodbyes in MN, this one must also bear the weight of finality. For we do not know and cannot say if we will ever come back to this home again.

Therein lies the grief of my heart. For it seems at least for now – and perhaps for a very long time – the pursuit of our dream (calling? vocation?) comes with a great cost. It is the price of home.

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It is not the cost of trading one home with all its unique beauties and peculiarities for another with other joys and gifts. It is the cost of HOME. Full stop. The cost of being rooted, belonging, knowing a language, having a space, being deeply known…

Tonight I feel as though I am feeling the full weight of that cost. Am I willing to live this out? Am I willing to be fully present, to love deeply, to engage my whole heart with no promise of continuity to lean on or hope for? Am I willing to continue to delve into life and relationship knowing that a permanent goodbye is in store? Can I continue to say an authentic hello with full investment while knowing that I must also say an honest goodbye?  Am I willing to do that every 6-12 weeks for a year and a half? Am I willing to do that as a vocation? Am I willing to forgo home indefinitely?

There are, of course trade-offs for such a cost. There is the rich gift of meeting and knowing and loving people we would otherwise never be honored to call our friends. There is the profound beauty of truly having family throughout the world. There is the growing sense that as we give up one corner of this earth in which to belong, we are welcomed to find our belonging in the whole; that all the world is in fact becoming our home.

So yet again I am convinced that it is only in dying that we find life. This is the great paradox of human existence, as Walter Brueggemann says better than I ever could:

“The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings.”
-Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination

Here is to learning anew how to embrace endings…

 

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