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Good Byes

September 9, 2008


The Gray boys at Devil's Tower Wyoming

The Gray boys at Devil's Tower Wyoming

Today I said goodbye again to Taya, Kipper, Jacob, and little Gus, who’s not that little anymore.  We’ve been in Washington for the last couple of weeks attending the Centricity Records artist’s retreat – a week of business meetings, nurture for our ministries, and even a little play – book ended by some concerts I was blessed to play in the Seattle area.  Taya and I and the boys tried to build some family time in this trip by driving to Washington and adding a couple extra days to our travel for some fun stops.  

But today I leave for the Fall tour with Big Daddy Weave and Rush of Fools.  I know it’s going to be great, but there is also that sting of saying goodbye to my family – especially Gus who is changing so much everyday.  There is the fear that I’ll miss so much of what he’s becoming.

For instance, he learned how to swim a couple weeks ago during our drive West.  On the heels of the Olympics, Gus  – inspired by Michael Phelps – decided to dive in the deep end of the hotel pool in Rapid CitySD.  And that was all he needed!  He’s been jumping in the deep end of every hotel pool since, making mom and dad proud (and laugh!), and learning to swim.  I’m glad I didn’t miss this, and it makes me sad for what I might miss while I’m away.

There was a great series of sessions at the Centricity retreat with psychologist Stephen James – the best and most effective counselor I’ve ever met.  One of the things he will say is necessary for mental, emotional, and spiritual health is the progression of these three things: to feel our feelings, tell the truth, and then give it to God.  He also maintains that the best picture we have for understanding our lives is the desert wanderings of the Israelites: delivered from captivity, but not yet in a promised land.  His goal is to help us wander this desert well, and to be present to the process.  We are all too tempted to flee from pain and suffering and so develop all kinds of co-dependencies and dysfunctions to help us escape from facing the hard work of being human and living life on planet earth.  Somewhere in the process we abandon ourselves and in so doing we fail to feel our feelings and tell the truth, let alone give anything to God.

There was a great moment when a Centricity staff member opened up and talked about how he didn’t know what to do with his sadness and even guilt over leaving his family for the week of the retreat.  Stephen asked him if he felt like he was supposed to be at the retreat – the answer was yes – and if it was good for him to be at retreat – yes again.  Then Stephen asked if it would be good for him to be home with his kids who needed him – the answer of course was yes.  Could you say that it was God’s will that he be at the retreat?  It could be argued that yes, it appeared to be that way – even if it caused pain for his family at home.   Is it God’s will that he feel sadness that he isn’t with his family?  Again, it could be argued yes.  And so it goes that there are rarely any cut and dried answers, only the tug and pull of life and the tension of living that though we try to escape it, we must be present to if we hope to actually be alive, to experience the abundant life.

I don’t know if this means anything to anyone else, but these discussions were a comfort to me.  The challenge is to be present to my life, as well as to other’s, and I’m trying to help others be present to their own lives – especially those closest to me.  That means today I feel sad that I leave my boys, but not guilty.  I can feel the full weight of my disappointment over what I will miss while I’m away, and there is even a joy in this because it is the ache of love, and to deny the ache is to deny the love in some way as well.  I can also look forward to the coming weeks of touring that I hope will be life-giving to me and to those I meet along the way.  It means I don’t have to try to make my boys “okay” and talk them out of their sadness by saying things like “it’s only such and such days before we get to see each other again, so don’t feel sad…”

On the contrary, I know that like me they are sad, and their sadness is a part of being present to each other.  It is also a benediction. It is a good bye.

And, in truth, it is a relatively short period of time before we see each other again – a matter of weeks and days.  I still don’t know how servicemen do it when they have to leave for months and even years.  They deserve our prayers, support, and respect.

I guess the point of all this is that I suspect most of us are pain aversive to the point of rarely feeling our feelings, for fear what our pain may ask of us, or of losing our composure or who knows what.  Stephen talked about a woman with an especially sunny disposition who recently told him that if the world starts raining all you need is a bigger umbrella, and that her own umbrella was big enough to keep out all the rain.  I suspect many of us are always reaching for a bigger umbrella, doing our best to keep the rain out.  But rain, of course, is what makes things grow, and a world without rain eventually shrivels up and turns to ash.

I’m trying to put my umbrellas away.  Feel my feelings. Tell the truth. And then give it all to God.  I’m here to walk these days for awhile, I might as well be present and alive to as much of it as I can.  

It’s scary sometimes, especially in relationships where I have to let others feel their feelings and tell the truth.  But life grows deeper the more we are present to it and to each other.  Ultimately we become more present to Life Himself.  And so like Gus, I jump in the deep end.  I’m learning to swim, too.

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