It’s been a year. A year of losing and finding, all mixed up together, since that early, early morning when we drove away from Fort Lauderdale. My best friend was here for a visit this past weekend and I was finally able to say out loud what I hadn’t been able to before. As I drove that first day, I wondered if I would make it. I had gotten used to seeing myself as a strong and capable woman who had done things like a 30-day Ignatian retreat and a half marathon. But the pain of leaving so much behind felt like it was capable of swamping and drowning me. It was an almost “out of body” realization—an awareness of our human fragility and how things can break and never get put back together, including our hearts. The only thing to do was keep driving and so I did.
Last night, I was almost asleep when my iPhone started buzzing with text messages. Lupe, one of my true heroes, was sending me a series of pictures of the summer school program the Latina women who were part of El Centro Hispano de Todos los Santos, have put together this year. The last IM said, “When will we finish thanking you for teaching us how to believe in ourselves? Thank you for helping us discover who we are. Nothing happens by chance and we miss you very much but we know that you are happy and that helps. We love you.” The kingdom of God is always beyond our reach and through parish ministry, I have also found out that it is so close that we get to see and experience a tiny fraction of its magnificence and that is enough to leave me wordless.
Last week, I advised my team at ECF that in August, when we finish the pilot phase of the work we’ve been doing, I will leave my position with them. The pull of parish ministry is simply too strong and this self, who is no longer a spring chicken, has had an awfully hard time with all the travel the work has involved and will continue to require. I am doing some work with a large downtown parish in Montgomery this summer, as well as really getting started as priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s here in Lowndesboro. There is some more part-time parish work that may come together for me towards the end of September. Taking this step is also taking another step in the direction of simplicity and more careful stewardship of our financial resources. I get scared from time to time, but it is in that letting go that I am able to say yes to the unexpected gifts of the future.
So now, a year later, what have I learned, what do I know that I didn’t (and couldn’t) know as I turned off 595 headed north on the Florida Turnpike? Love endures. Saying good bye, letting go—leaving—in no way diminished or will diminish the love and joy that resided in my work and my life in Fort Lauderdale. It enlivens and gives direction to the work and life I lead now. Returning to the audio book I listened to on that journey last year, The Fault In Our Stars, I know this: however small a little infinity might be, it is still an infinity. Love does not end.