Coming Home, Again.

While studying in seminary in Washington, DC, I had the honor praying in the Howard Thurman Chapel at Howard University School of Divinity. Howard Thurman, an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, as well as someone whose legacy has impacted my worldview, once penned these moving words,

“There must be always remaining in every man’s life some place for the singing of angels — some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an inherent prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into a new and creative relatedness — something that gathers up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright light of penetrating beauty and meaning — then passes. The commonplace is shot through with new glory — old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all of the harsh discords of life, life is saved by the singing of angels.”

This is my wish at this time of year for those of us who find it a trying time. Now, to be clear: not all the season is difficult, but when those moments overwhelm us, we need the signing of angels. That is why The Longest Night, our annual ‘Blue Christmas’ Service this Friday at 6:30pm, is so healing and so important for me. It allows me to actually cry at church – my home – and feel my grief and let go of some of my grief tomorrow yet to come. Because of what will happen here this Friday, I will heal a bit more and become a bit more whole again. No, I know that I will never be the same, but whatever is left, God will use for good. That I know and that I trust.

As  Thurman said, ‘old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting’,  and that is so often how God comes to us. His care and embrace are made manifest by often simple, selfless gifts and by coming to us at the most opportune moments, we are made whole. Any earlier, these gifts would have been lost in the darkness of my grief; any later it could not have been undervalued or under appreciated. God’s timing is always impeccable.

It is, in a very real sense how Katelyn came into my life. Any earlier, we would have passed in the night; any later, I most likely would never have made it another year. This beautiful gift is cherished far beyond my mere words here can ever express, for I am a mere mortal and broken man, and yet so loved. But, suffice-it-to-say, God gave me this gift at a time where I was ready to let go of my deepest pain found mired in the tragic loss of my dad – I had to let it go – in order to try and find home again, but this time it was  within me all along.

So, you see, the lesson of Christmas is that home is never a place, it is rather a feeling or a destination that dwells deep within you all the time, even when you fail to know it is there! The Christ has never left me, even when I felt abandoned in my loss and depression, God was still there; Jesus was still holding me waiting for me to have the strength to look beyond the edges of my grief. But it took the passage of time, the softening of my deep grief, and the gift of an angel named Katelyn to remind me that Christmas, too, is not a day. No, Christmas lives all year long.

Merry Christmas, dad. I miss you more with every breath. Merry Christmas, to Katelyn, and all of God’s angels who have watched over me, and worried about me, and loved me at my worst so that God had time to bring me to my best. Thank you for being my true gifts this year and sharing my broken life and making me feel wonderfully whole!

And a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all!


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