Thursday, March 23, 2023

Searching for the Goodness in Goodbye

In a Mennonite community in Bolivia in 2009, women--young and old, married and single--divulged that they had been victims of sexual crimes, perpetrated over years.  The accused men were brought to trial, but whether justice was or ever will be achieved is still up for question. 

Women Talking is a powerful novel--and now movie-- inspired by this event. While the fictional account of what ensues after the crimes are discovered differs from the actual one, the book reveals truths and raises probing questions in ways that only fiction can. 

In the novel, several women gather secretly in a barn to determine their reaction to an unspeakable crime from which they and their daughters will never fully recover. Their debate to leave or stay presents difficult and heart-wrenching considerations. Staying could enable further abuse. It could keep them tied to a life where they forever will be considered lesser beings, deprived of education and the opportunity to "think." On the other hand, leaving will present serious risks to their physical survival. It will involve abandoning sons, husbands, fathers . . . . It will isolate them from the only life they have ever known. For this conservative, religious group, it even raises questions concerning their eternal existence. 

Among the many issues this book had me contemplating, the act of leaving and all that it entails resonated most with me. A conclusion I arrived at is that leaving is hard.

Even when leaving is necessary and comes as a relief, pain is often involved. For the women in this book, the status quo had turned ugly and threatening for them and their children. Still, leaving would present formidable obstacles and overwhelming uncertainties. It also would require making agonizing decisions about family and faith. 

Likewise, partings that are rife with hope and possibility—such as a young person leaving home to attend college or pursue a career—can carry with them the angst of leaving behind family, friends, and all that is familiar and comfortable. 

Women Talking was  a timely read for me. For many years I have been a United Methodist, and now United Methodists around the globe find themselves facing the decision to part. Some see this as a clear-cut and necessary decision, albeit not any easy one. For others, it raises questions about the best way to practice their faith. In both situations, it carries uncertainties and the hurt of saying goodbye to people cared about and worshiped with for years.

But parting is nothing new in the Christian faith. Indeed, Christianity seems to be one long narrative of partings and goodbyes--from those commanded by God to those brought about by humankind's own lack of obedience. While some might see this as evidence of an uncaring God, I see it as a testament to his goodness. Whether we humans are following God's commands or are suffering the consequences of our own disobedience, God continues to accompany us on our journeys, both real and metaphorical, and finds ways to use them for good. We are told in Romans  8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

As Christians, we trust God's goodness will prevail even in our hard goodbyes.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

New Tricks are Getting Trickier

In January I declared my word for 2023 to be "goodness," and so far this year, I have had many opportunities to be made aware of how God's blessings abound. 

While many people consider February to be their least favorite month, I've always been a bit partial to it, not least because it's when my birthday occurs. While some folks might not look forward to another birthday, I'm long past that nonsense. These days I view birthdays as opportunities to celebrate another year of living--an opportunity not granted to all.

Some of the "goodness" I celebrated in February 2023:

An opportunity to gather with family. My sister, brother, and I are scattered across the U.S., but in February we managed to gather in San Antonio for a fun reunion. And it just happened to fall on my birthday! 

Celebrating my birthday with friends. When I joined an exercise class eight years ago, I had no idea what a blessing these ladies would become.

Celebrating Sydney's graduation. Residents who complete the program at Exodus House are such an inspiration!

Birthday greetings from friends, valentine roses from my husband, and a beautiful valentine and little birdhouse from my sweet next-door neighbor, Eva. 

Daffodils blooming by my front porch. They remind me that spring is just around the corner!

My 2023 birthday picture

Remember when we were kids and each year had a birthday picture made? Well, I began my seventh decade by posting a "birthday picture" of me doing a tricky yoga pose--tricky for me that is. God's goodness has allowed me to remain healthy over the past three years and continue with my exercising. However, I must admit those tricks are getting . . . well, trickier. While this pose may not look complicated, I promise it presents a challenge to 73-year-old knees. That might or might not be a grimace rather than a smile on my face. 😝