Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!
One of my earliest clear memories is from when I was five: my family had just moved to a small town in Upstate New York. Our first night, we went “downtown:” a single block with a few shops, only one of which—the drugstore—was open at night. We went in, and I probably got distracted by something; a few minutes later I looked up, and my family had all left. Panicked, I ran outside, where everything looked strange and unfamiliar. After a frantic search, which seemed like forever, I found them, no very far away. In retrospect, I know they were always near—even as an older child the thought of getting lost in that single block seemed laughable—and the whole scene took only moments, but I still remember the desperate, fearful feeling of being lost in new and intimidating surroundings. Anyway, once reunited with my family, I quickly regained my confidence and sense of security. Mostly.
But it has always stuck with me, because even as I mastered “downtown” and bigger challenges, life has always found new ways to put me in unfamiliar, sometimes overwhelming circumstances: a new city, a new job, goals missed, a child’s struggles. Most recently has been the sudden and grave illnesses of several friends, and the onset of what is sure to be a prolonged decline for my mother. Frightening, seemingly senseless and unfair developments that, lacking a child’s total reassurance of having all-knowing parents near, left me feeling unmoored and adrift.
My family is still a steadfast source of comfort. Unlike when I was a child, though, I have also coped, strange as it sounds, by learning—re-learning, really—that everyone deals with hard losses. And some peace has come from music: feeling the inspiration of God through works that express composers’ own suffering and search for consolation. Scripture also offers a sense of security with its wisdom and lessons of universal human experience—suffering as well as joys and triumphs, and everything in between. All of these “new” things, of course, as well as simple companionship and support, come together at church. Saint John’s has become a broad new family that offers comfort and support when I feel lost.
Appointed readings for today: Jeremiah 20:7-13, Psalm 18:1-7, John 10:31-42