Three months ago, today was the first full day I spent by myself here in our new home. It’s going on a month now, since Sherod retired and came home too. We’ve started finding new rhythms and routines. We enjoy each other’s company enormously these days. Yesterday we ran down to the Highway 80 Café for lunch and then went on to Hayneville, the county seat that also has the closest grocery store, for a quick errand. The day was crisp, light and beautiful. In the truck, we both reached out, almost exactly at the same time, to hold hands and rode quietly the rest of the way. I keep saying this, I know—but the grace of these days exceeds my ability to receive it all.
And in that paradox that it my life, I need every bit of that grace. Over the past week I have received a series of calls and email contacts from Ft Lauderdale as a group of people I deeply trust, admire and respect have tried to make sense of the turn ministries we were all so invested in have taken. It is not my story and not my story to tell. The news I am getting is surely fragmentary. But what I have heard and read with my own eyes reaffirms the horror of the way alternative narratives emerge and compete and cause appalling collateral damage. There’s nothing new under the sun—it has always been like this in the human condition: you just have to read Genesis to understand that human frailties and failures collide, amplify and concentrate into carnage.
Precisely because I cannot play a part in this new chapter of the ministry I started, I am filled with pain. I value the relationship I have with each of the people who have contacted me; I can and am willing to act as a sounding board, ask questions, provide some historical context. I can remind and be reminded of the goodness with which we served in our community. But when I hang up from these conversations I am washed over with despair.
Last night I went back to my night walking—the work of the day on the farm was not sufficient to still the sadness. Lowndesboro has about 1.5 miles of sidewalk that’s reasonably well lit and the country roads around our farm don’t have enough space on the sides to be safe, especially with no street lighting to speak of. I have to ride my car to where the sidewalk begins and park in front of the cemetery. From there, I walk to Highway 80, where the sidewalk ends. Although some cars go by, and I walk by homes with lights on, the solitude is almost total and enormously comforting. It is so much darker than my old route in Fort Lauderdale. I go up and down hills though not steep ones. I go by 5 small churches including St Paul’s. And if there are no people to run into, I am accompanied by the firmament that feels like it presses from above and behind and before and both sides. All those stars. I am so thankful for them.
I listened to the plaintive music of Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here; as I walked, I was able to walk away from all that tug and pull of the past. I walked back into my own life.