For many reasons, my mind is already on Christmas. First of all, my husband and I are trying to figure out how to see our families in New England for that season, attempting to navigate schedules, finances, and the myriad issues that traveling brings up. At work, the non-profit I work for is rolling out their holiday program, which ushers in a season of busy-ness, as we seek to help homeless and low-income families feel a bit of comfort in what can be a very lonely season.
Finally, I am reading Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season, which follows the church year and therefore starts with Advent. She’s got me thinking about all my experiments in loving people, and how many of them end in failure of one kind or another, but how that might just be where they are supposed to go. She writes, about God, “We are surely one of his failures. He loved us enough to come to us, and we didn’t want him, and this incredible visit ended in total failure, and this failure gives me cause to question all failure, and all success. And even after failure he continues to be concerned for us. We can, if we will, recognize him as he is manifested in love, total, giving love. And I believe that in one way or another we are all meant to receive him as Mary did. (p.27)”
It is such an interesting way of seeing the question of Jesus (as I believe he is more of a question than an answer) — as an experiment in love that went horribly wrong. It went wrong to go right, in the end, but not in the way that the world would accept, as it is totally unprovable and doesn’t really benefit anyone materially, but benefits us all internally, infinitely.
I have a whole stack of failed experiments in love. I am not talking romantically, for the most part — I met my husband at 19 and have had the good fortune to not completely fail that one yet, though the only reason for that is our current ability to forgive one another continually, and to allow ourselves to create together. But I am a fierce lover of my friends, and my track record is not amazing.
I am not one of those people who has had the same friends since third grade, has managed to hold on to relationships through the decades, growing together and sharing joys. One of my best friends recently turned to me and said, “I wish we had met before you knew you had bi-polar II and before I was in therapy — we could have had a lot of fun together.” I disagreed, stating that “I was a roman candle, burning out of control.” And besides, I have no friends from that time. All of the friendships that I have retained have been from the past decade, in which I have been on the slow winding path to self-healing.
And even with the relationships I have kept, I have had periods of total failure, in which my way of loving brought me to a impasse, a stream I could not cross, no matter how frantically I built boats to ford it. There are even some now that I feel I am failing, but I hope that they are just changing, that these are just growing pains. It is hard to know. The line between when something is dying and something is transforming is so very thin, because they look exactly the same for awhile. Sometimes they look the same for much too long, sometimes it is a flash.
I suppose what L’Engle’s quote is making me think about is how my failures in love are nothing compared to God’s, and God keeps loving, keeps trying to reach us. A big struggle for me in Christianity is the lack of boundaries, how I feel that it sometimes leads us to these enmeshed communities in which no one can say no, because that is not true love. But my greatest version of failure is letting down someone that I really care about. And maybe that is exactly where I need to go — fail big to gain something deeper, to allow change to occur.