Winter is coming. Those damn Starks have been telling us so forever, but we grew tired of hearing it and dismissed them as crying wolf (insert GOT fan groan).
But winter is coming, and it’s coming for me, so I might as well go out with all the drama and flare of a butchered Jon Snow…bleeding out, lying motionless, fading to black.
In my physical world, it is autumn, which in central California means this morning was the first time my kids and I broke out a light sweater to walk to school with a predicted high temp of 79…may the gods, old and new, sustain us.
Autumn, however muted in this part of the country, still retains an element of anticipation and haunting beauty as a prelude to death; a transitional season leading us out of one extreme and into another. There’s a whisper in the (ever so slightly chilled) air saying, “Winter is coming.”
Surely I hail from the House of Stark as I’ve known winter was coming for me for a long time. It is now right on my doorstep and there is nothing left but to welcome it in.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
For once I can’t blame my swollen red eyes on seasonal allergies. I’ve been sobbing intermittently and quite uncontrollably for 3 days. I finally crashed hard last night, dropping at 8:30 and sleeping like a dead person until 6 a.m. I woke up feeling refreshed for a nice change. I had a pleasant morning together with the Banshees, and as we stepped outside to begin our walk to school I thought, “It’s going to be alright. Your life is so good. You’ve got this.”
Then Joseph, our little Random Man, blurted out for no good reason, “I can’t wait for church. How many days until Sunday?” The instant lump in my throat kept me from answering. Liberty did the math for him and said, “Yeah, I love church.”
With that, an icy blast of arctic air just about knocked my spirit on its ass. Winter is coming.
“Guys, would you be really sad if I told you that we were going to have to stop doing church?”
“YES!” they both wailed in unison. JoJo saw a roly poly and immediately lost interest, but Libby honed in, “Why do we have to stop going to church?”
“Well honey, not enough people want to come and we don’t have any more money left.”
Without skipping a beat, “We can just go to another church. How about that big one we’ve gone to before? There’s lots of people there.”
I would have preferred being punched hard in the face at that moment rather than answer her.
My babies have absolutely no concept of the conflict and hardship we’ve endured, as it should be. Our own church had very little idea as it just wasn’t appropriate for us to burden them that way. That’s why I turned to writing. It was my one and only release to keep me from drowning in the bitterness and resentment.
But what to tell my daughter who was asking me why we couldn’t just go back to what she calls “fun church”? Her only real memory of that place was using the facilities for training groups a few Sunday nights a couple years ago. It was big and had stuff and she got to play (as opposed to small and has stuff and she gets to play at Four Creeks).
How do you tell your child that the man who took her and each of her siblings as infants into his arms to pray over and dedicate them to God had disparaged and disowned her parents? How do you tell her that the congregation who had promised that day to nurture and support her and us as a family had done the same?
All I could think to say was, “Oh no sweetie, I would never go back there. They didn’t like us. They didn’t want us.”
My mind raced ahead trying to think of how I would answer what I thought would be the inevitable next question – why?
Instead, after mulling this new information over for a few seconds, she said, “Well, at least there wasn’t a war.”
My freakishly wise and wonderful 8-year-old made an important observation. There was conflict, but there was no war. We had been purposeful in that from the beginning. We’d initially gone silently like lambs to slaughter. When I eventually did start talking it was in an attempt to salvage relationships and my own sanity. I was spectacularly unsuccessful on both counts.
We’d declined a war out of love for both churches by sacrificing ourselves as the only casualties, and I’ve been severely walking wounded ever since
“You’re so right Libby. There was no war, but I was very hurt and I still hurt very much.”
“What?! Someone hit you?!”
“No, honey. My feelings were hurt.”
“Oh. Well then let’s go find another church that’s fun and doesn’t hurt.”
And I lost it. Done. Stick a fork in me (or a half dozen daggers). Finito. Roll credits.
WINTER HAS COME
With the exception of my college prodigal years (I was wiser than I knew then), for the first time in my life I’m going to be without a church, and I’m not going to try to find one – not as long as we live in this town, anyway. I just can’t fathom any church, as Libby said, that is “fun and doesn’t hurt.” Four Creeks was the type of church that I would have given my right arm to be a part of…and I ended up losing much more than that. I understand why so few would even touch or acknowledge it/us, and it’s OK. It really is. This is a good death and I go into it willingly and without a fight. This part of my life needs to completely die. I’ve been in this process for such a long time, and I’m so very tired and ready for the release.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.
Winter has come for me. I have no idea what the duration of this season will be, and it really doesn’t matter. It will be what it will be. Spring will come when it comes. New life will come as it is God-breathed. My only task for right now is to die for a little while.
From the beginning, it was always leading up to this –
Father, forgive us because we just don’t understand what we’re doing.
Into your hands I commit my spirit.
It is finished.