It’s been raining today, just a dull grey never-ending west coast drizzle. I had big plans to leave the Christmas decorations up until Epiphany this year, but I have failed miserably. Everything has been put away. I’m just so sick of the trappings and the clutter, the visual noise and the mess. The very things that delighted me three or four weeks ago began to feel suffocating. So even though it makes me a liturgical fail – after all, Christmas has technically only begun! 12 days of Christmas to celebrate! – I had my long-suffering husband haul up the storage boxes and I set to work this morning. By the time, we were finished, not only had we swept out the Christmas decor, but we had reconfigured the living room entirely, as makes sense only when one is exhausted and nearly eight months pregnant.
Christmas was lovely for us this year. All the magic, all the stories, all the gifts and the food and the laughter and the fun, the family memory making. But I confess that when Boxing Day rolled around, I felt I couldn’t bear much more merriness and warmth.
I needed to be a bit free, a bit cold, a bit wild and lonely. We loaded up the tinies in the minivan and headed for the lake. The water was gunmetal grey, still as glass, mirroring the clouds and occasional breaks in the sky. The clouds wrapped around the trees in the mountains like a thrown scarf and the remaining birds circled and landed and soared above our heads. I love the ocean, but there is nothing like a rocky northern lake for catching my breath. It became progressively colder out on the shore. The tinies played while Brian and I took turns with short solitary walks to contemplate the mountains or mortality, the lake or life altogether.
This is the part of me that always feels like it doesn’t fit in church or in with the Nice Christian Lady expectations. Because I was nearer to God there in the wind than I could be anywhere else. And I doubt still, oh, I have been in the strangest cauldron of doubt this week, stewing with my shadow self that questions everything to which I’ve given my life. I sat down beside Brian at a bench and we watched our children play together, me still heavy with the new baby arriving in a few weeks. It felt so good to be away from the noise and bustle and forced merriment of the whole Christmas thing.
I sat there and thought about all the things I believe – sometimes they are what I choose to believe; other times, they are absolutely things I know. This story of God – the love of God – is fantastical and wonderful, too wonderful for me at times. I used to think that everyone else was completely certain all the time, that no one ever took a step back and thought, you know what, this is completely nuts, what in the world with this story. But now I know that’s not true, most of us wonder or doubt or marvel at times. Sometimes with circumstances, other times because we must.
And in that moment, I thought that even if it’s all fake, even if none of it is real, this life would be enough for me. This, as it is, it’s enough. Life is ordinary and brilliant enough even if it never resolves in the way I think it will or should or must, its okay with me, I think. These moments make it transcendent with simple joy and generosity. My faith has shaped my life, I have no regrets, I will keep wrestling and evolving and sorting it all out, over and over again.
I was happy there on the shore with my husband and our children in the beauty that is beyond compare to me. I know there is beauty elsewhere, I see it, too, but I love beauty with a bit of an edge to it. I need the loneliness and the lines, pines instead of palm trees, jagged rocks instead of gentle hills.
I used to think that if I were really spiritually mature, I would lose the edge to my faith. But that shadow self remains, the imp in the back of my mind is an old friend by now. I find God most in that wild tang, in the sparse and open space, in the unresolved colours. Perhaps that’s why I keep wrestling with this story of God, with the unresolved Jesus, with the wind and fire and water of the Spirit: there’s an edge to the story, more than we acknowledge at times.
So today when I woke up, I knew I needed the simplicity again. I needed a few more hard edges, even in my cozy living room, I needed to sweep away the sentimentality and breathe more easily. As I write, the sun is setting out of my living room window. The rain stopped, miracle of miracles, and the clouds have parted just above the skeleton trees, a brief wash of pink and lavender behind them. Right now, it’s enough for me.