Thursday, June 4, 2015

A grain of wheat

My last couple blog entries, I noticed as I pondered a title for today’s post, have been about mourning, grieving. Apparently, in addition to being a summer of sunny walks and delightfully simple bike commuting and silent retreats and deeply intentional ministry, this is also a summer of grieving, if I will let it be. Based on my experience of God, I can only suspect this means that new life is just around the corner.

Photo by Capture Queen

It's been a year since we lived in Cherokee, but John and I visited a couple weeks ago. It was a perfect sunny day in late spring. We drove past blue ridges and walked small-town streets. While he worked, I went to see elk in the park and ran on my favorite trail by a rolling brook.

Over a pensive cup of hot chocolate, I thought: this is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever lived, maybe even will ever live. I thought: And I never loved it.

Perhaps this is why a guard goes up when I hear the word Cherokee. To say Cherokee conjures up disappointment, not with the town and the lovely people there, not even with John for having brought me to a place where it was hard to find outlet for my gifts, not even with God for the loneliness I experienced there. To say Cherokee conjures up disappointment with myself for being unable to live into the gifts and beauty that were before me.

So I missed out. And in an attempt to rebuild and find new community in Durham and move into bright futures of real careers and family and community, in wanting to leave the past behind, I have not let myself mourn for what might have been, for the beauty that eluded me.


This summer in Washington DC feels like a homecoming. Biking along the familiar streets—having instant familiarity with the neighborhoods and networks of half the people I meet because of the smallness of this city—running into old friends on the street or at the park—all of these things have made my first two weeks here rich and lovely.

All of these things remind me, too, of what I lost when we moved away from here.

Even if we moved back, the area around the metro has been built up and gentrified, the grocery store gutted and redone, the church that was my primary community disbanded, friends have moved away. Maybe most importantly, I am no longer a single twenty-something with other twenty-something friends who spend hours eating and laughing and sharing on Friday nights.

Marriage, it turns out, is a kind of loss. You have to release one thing to cling to another.


For a school assignment, I ask my internship supervisor for a verse from Scripture that captures the spirit of the Church of the Saviour. She thinks for a moment, then shares a saying of Jesus.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

The Church of the Saviour movement, she explains, believes that wholeness—both inner wholeness and the growth of a healthy community—is only possible through the steady work of dying to our egos, letting ourselves break open for others. 

Am I ready for this? Am I ready to walk through the grieving process towards wholeness?

In church Sunday, a man spoke about the void he had felt for the past two years, since his father died of cancer. There was a dullness, an emptiness, like a banner over his every step, and he was constantly aware of his desire for it to go away, to let him get back to clarity in his work and family life. And then in a flash of intuition he realized that God was in that nothingness. The very feeling he wanted to purge was the place where God and joy and love could meet him.

I’m a nodder, and as he told this story, I nearly bobbled my head right off of my shoulders. I felt I knew exactly what he was talking about.

When my grandma died, there was a dullness to life for about a year, that same strip of void traveling along above me wherever I went. In some ways I miss it, because in that aching hole she was always with me. I also knew without a doubt that God was in that place, in that death, in that grief, slowly cultivating something that would spring forth anew.

What I had not thought until Sunday was to relate that experience to the past few years that have felt so spiritually vapid. What if God’s presence is in the very dullness I’ve tried to avoid? What if I have to lean into that disappointment for a moment to meet God in the place God has been presenting Godself to me? What if I need to accept gravity, become dead weight for a fraction of a moment, and fall to the ground like a grain of wheat pregnant with fruit and beauty?

1 comment:

  1. Katie, you inspire me and astound me with your wisdom and insight. Thank you for sharing from such a deep and honest place. I love reading your thoughts and resonate so often with them.