What My Friend Robin Describes as Beautiful and Terrible


This morning I was up at 4:30, not unusual for me on Sunday mornings.  I work on my sermon on and off all week, but I have found that it really helps me to finish working it over one more time, early, early on the day I am preaching.   Today’s lesson is one I love—the wedding at Cana and Jesus turning water into the best wine imaginable.  In my family of origin, special occasions were always celebrated with Veuve Clicquot  champagne.  Though I drink less and less nowadays, this year I found a bottle of Clicquot Rosé and bought it without hesitation.  I could have sat with that bottle in a corner all by myself, could have drunk the entire bottle in one sitting, though instead, it turned out to be a New Year’s Day treat with good friends.

For me, that champagne makes real something I read as I prepared for my sermon:  Wine brings life in intoxicating excess.  I revel and delight in the notion that we are immersed in a superabundance of life, an exhilarating, untamed, and shamelessly glorious creation.  In my own life I have experienced any number of ways in which God continues to make water into wine when I am fearful that it has run out.  This is the Sunday, three years ago, when I officially began my ministry on the campus of St Ambrose.  It seemed to me, as dawn was breaking today and I revised my sermon—actually, almost rewrote it—that it wasn’t just that God had kept providing for us.  I was so aware that we have been at a magnificent party thrown in our honor, a celebration that has not stopped, one that continues to insist I join in the joyfulness. With this community I have learned what it means to sing, “I come with joy to meet my [God]”.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  Sherod is still out of town and María has had a really bad cold so we haven’t done much together this week.  Today I knew there was enough staff coverage at BARC to make it safe for me to bring her home for 3 hours.  It’s the first time she’s been here since before Christmas, the first time I’ve taken that kind of risk by myself in many months.

Life with my daughter is parceled out in small and carefully measured moments.  I keep myself from hugging her too much.  I guard against expressing how very much I miss her, trying to avoid overloading her with my need.  I maintain enough emotional distance to always observe carefully, aware that if I can catch precursors to problem behaviors really early, I will avoid a conflagration that becomes dangerous in an eye blink.   And when I drop her off, I steel myself, I have to steel myself far more than I do to walk 13 miles.  It is an exercise in absolute self-discipline, the most extreme opposite of excess, a discipline necessary to keep from clinging to that precious body I so carefully bless with the sign of the cross before I walk back down the hall, and out to my car to drive away.

How strange tonight, to understand this profound paradox of intoxicating excess and scorching, pulverizing scarcity.  Not either/or.  One is not possible without the other.  This is my life.

2 thoughts on “What My Friend Robin Describes as Beautiful and Terrible

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