Sunday, September 17, 2023

Anniversary Words

This past week the yearly occurrence of my wedding took place. Over four decades of remembering the event at a church surrounded by cornfields in southern Minnesota. Exuberant fanfare was minimal. The tradition of eating lunch at a restaurant of non-American cuisine remained intact. The day was duly noted. "One and done" and onto the next day.

A card received
Before too many eye rolls and thoughts of my being a curmudgeon rise in your minds, I offer this perspective. The notion of "celebrating" brings with it either a sense of accomplishment against all odds or the end of a grueling challenge.  My marriage has not ended nor do I sense this past year in the perspective of, "You will be lucky to make it through."  The use of "happy", as in Happy Anniversary, bears the same Midwestern expression as, "The weather sure has been nice lately." It is something to say without engaging in anything further. A pleasant nicety which carries a thin veil of caring. Neither of these words describe the reality of the present in my estimation. 

Decades ago there were weeks of careful planning in preparation for the anniversary event. The consideration of satiny sleepwear or provocative undergarments took me to many stores with a dollop or two of embarrassment. There was no online shopping in those years. This ritual morphed into finding functional flannels. Now with the proliferation of online everything and no hassle returns, the aspect of gifting has been set aside. Drives to surprising destinations to walk along wooded trails enjoying the burgeoning beauty of fall foliage, or going to different orchards to pick apples are only memories. Riding in a vehicle for an extended period of time does not bode well for my wife's enjoyment. Maintaining balance while walking now defines what may be acceptable for a trail. It is not that the words, "celebrate" or "happy" are wrong. Yet, in the marking and remembering of the anniversary along with the existence of what has transpired in our relationship, these words are shallow, if not hollow. The journey of  my relationship of marriage continues with its unique characteristics. 

All of us function with images and expectations. When these images and expectations are not realized we

True sentiments
endeavor to find resolution. The prevailing culture holds up unrealistic, fairy tale images of relationships. My perspective on marriage is not about romance and living happily ever after. However, that image was part of my early years of marriage. The word which has become foundational is, "commitment." It carries little glamour. It does not radiate roses and passion. Nor is it a word to overlook. The anniversary day was a time to explore the dimensions of my promise, spoken and unspoken, to another person. Surrounded by cornfields, as well as relatives and friends in a rustic building built for religious purposes years ago, a day most in attendance have forgotten, I have not forgotten the intent of the vows, even though I do not recall the exact words. The time to reminisce was brief because I believe it is more important to focus on the aspects of commitment today. The journey continues!

Groomsman and garter

Sunday, September 3, 2023

This Mess is a Place

A friend with a knack for being subtle gave me a framed, desk-sized poster which read, "This mess is a place." The act, as well as the gift made an impression. I cleared a space for it among the debris scattered on the desk. My interpretation of the gift focused upon recognizing myself as a person surrounded by clutter. I was not simply a messy, lazy, or disorganized person. The stuff suppressed and obscured my being. Or as 

One of many books
may be more fitting for today, "my authentic self." I was a mess. I used a variety of external materials, expectations, and beliefs to create an image. This worked in many circumstances. It was beneficial for my vocation. Yet my friend saw through the clutter, expressing acceptance and gratitude.

I continue the process of minimizing clutter. It has been a part of at least the past decade. While the focus has been on the extraneous stuff tossed in plastic totes, I have new undertakings parallel to the totes. I have surrounded myself with numerous expectations which have become overgrown. I liken it to clearing the underbrush from trees so that both the forest and the soil can be restored. While both the soil and trees can continue living, neither can fulfill their original purpose encumbered by dense, nutrient demanding underbrush. It is important for the soil to be nurtured by moisture, sunlight, and rotting organic matter. Trees become stronger, more resilient, and express their beauty when not fighting for

Thick underbrush
nourishment. Living through the expectations of culture, organizations, relationships, and beliefs masks personal integrity and our natural beauty.

In my pastoral work, the initial directive was not to share personal information about the deceased at a funeral. Focus on Jesus. This will be an opportunity for conversion. That directive rimmed the trash bin a few times before I finally sank it. People sort out their spiritual needs without a paid, professional with a penchant for maintaining old beliefs glossing over the realities of a person known and loved by others. What is the purpose of a generic funeral? We opt for name brands, so why not fully and respectfully name the deceased and her/his connection with those gathered? Clear the underbrush and express the unique beauty and character of the person.                                                      

Pastoral activity

In relationships, whether they be personal or professional, expectations clutter reality. Assuming a role because it may be less challenging to another sucks the vitality out of that relationship. Once again, the underbrush has limited benefit. It provides coverage and distraction while negating the beauty and potential of each individual. People are adaptive and learn to survive in environments of various health. Survival does not equate to living. Living involves freedom and well-being in the present. I have lived and currently live in relationships where the underbrush has grown thick because it was less painful than removing it. I no longer want to navigate or get caught in the underbrush. Uprooting the old patterns while establishing my present self is slow. However, I tell myself that it is about progress, not perfection. Whether others in general or another in particular chafe at the change is outside of my control. I desire freedom of expression, movement, and growth without clutter. 

I accept myself and am grateful for life!

Thank you for reading.