Christmas and New Year have come and gone and I sit in the, now quite empty, reception room of my flat as this cold day turns into an even colder night. What a bleak sentence that was! The reason for my somewhat melancholy mood this evening is that another flat-mate just moved out today, taking her presence, and quite a bit of stuff, with her. We now have no sofa, no television, no coffee/end tables, and *gasp* no internet. I think the emptiness in our previously cozy sitting room is just leading me to reflect on how much leaving there is in my life, and the lives of others around me.
Apprentices come and go; Interns come a go even more quickly; flat-mates move across the city; co-workers change positions and aren’t a part of my life in the same way; I say goodbye to my family on an almost weekly basis via my laptop.
Now, hear me when I say that there is great joy and excitement and energy and fun in my life here! In fact, so much so that times like this can catch me by surprise, and it can be tempting to just “turn it off.” Turn off sadness, grief, loneliness, the exhaustion of learning about yet another person’s heart and teaching them mine (what I know of it, anyway).
Turning it off seems easy and quite natural, and the walls that it puts up around me make me feel a little safer. There is a cost to that cheap relief and protection, though.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that I wasn’t connecting with or enjoying some of the new people in my life very much. There are a lot of reasons for that: I haven’t known them that long, there are certain boundaries I need to put up to be professional, and there was a lot of transition happening in my life and around me.
Even with all those valid reasons, it still didn’t seem quite right. What I think God was pointing me to, is that I wasn’t allowing myself to simply have fun with the new people, because having fun with them meant seeing them as more than just someone I was responsible for or work with. It meant letting them see different aspects of myself, and it meant actually enjoying them to the point that it will hurt when they leave.
I had been so eager to be busy with my work and responsibilities, that I had “turned off” the sadness of saying goodbye to a flat-mate, a class of Apprentices, friends in America, and my family this summer.
So, while I was putting up some good professional and personal boundaries in my life, some other walls got put in there too. I didn’t see those sneaky walls because, in my unwillingness to acknowledge the loss in my life, I didn’t see any need for them to begin with.
I was being protected from the potential of future pain, but it was costing me depth of relationship, not to mention a lot of fun!
So, I don’t want to turn off this sadness tonight, because I want to be reminded that, as deep as the hurt goes, God has promised us joy that is even deeper. I suppose this is an extended Advent season for me, the promise of light in the midst of darkness.