Life as circles…
Have you observed how life seems to circle around? Maybe it does for you, maybe it doesn’t. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this way of looking at things as I get older.
As people grow older, they experience more and more loss. That is a fact of life. And when we experience a loss, we experience the circle of our lives seeming to grow smaller and smaller. At the same time, our memories of those we have lost, those we will never see again, circle into our minds from time to time. We see them again in our mind’s eye, and sometimes – if we are honest – we talk to them. Maybe we say the same things to them, things that have been circling around in our minds.
One day, the phone may ring and someone you have not spoken to in years will be calling. Our minds circle around to someone we have not thought about in years. We remember conversations, we remember feelings, and we experience those feelings again. The feelings circle around, they circle back to us. Like the ring on a merry-go-round, we are free to feel those feelings once again.
Several years ago, an important mentor of mine, the Rev. Harvey Stower, died. Harvey had listened, gently and patiently, to my growing awareness of an inner movement, a spiritual awakening. He listened and he encouraged me to leave my work in federal service to go to seminary – a dream I had held inside of me for a long time. He introduced me to Jesus, gently and without judgement: “If you can just think of Jesus as your friend,” as we stood under a night filled with stars in northern Wisconsin. Those simple words became a guide for me.
I had met Harvey when I was a lonely young woman in my 20’s, drifting through life, thrown about by the winds of social change and my own inner complexity and uncertainty. I was looking for a community, although I did not know it then. And so I searched. I began with books. I read about religions, not only Christianity, but other faiths. I rarely spoke to others about this search, but it continued, in spite of my ordinary outer life. Then, I began to go to church! I went to many churches one time. When I was not acknowledged, when I saw that my life space was different from the people I saw there, I did not return.
Then, because of the kindness of one “older” woman (Verdell, I am sure you were the age I am now!), I was gently invited to meet Harvey.
When Harvey died, I debated for days about whether to return to the Midwest for his funeral. Finally, encouraged by my husband, I made plane reservations, found someone to cover for me in my work, and made the trip to western Wisconsin just in time for the funeral. I sat in a row of people I did not know, strangers, that day as a whole community came out to remember and to grieve Harvey’s loss. He was a loss to many communities, outside the church and inside the church.
For a moment, as I remembered Harvey, as music was played and the gathered people sang together, a feeling came to me. I can’t name the feeling, but I knew it. The feeling I had during Harvey’s funeral was the same feeling I had when I was a younger woman, searching, lonely, looking for a place, my place in the world. When I finally made my way to my own community, where I would meet Harvey, who was so important to my life, that was the feeling I had felt. There it was! It had circled back again, to me, into my experience. Then, it was gone again.
“Will the circle be unbroken, by and by, Lord, by and by…”
I trust that your circles will come circling back to you, today or tomorrow. I trust that mine will, also.