It is good for you that I leave, because unless I pass away, I cannot send you my spirit to help you and inspire you. –John 16:7
I cherish the good times when life is good, and everything seems to be as it should be. As a young child, I slept in a twin bed with Charlie Brown sheets and heavy warm blankets which my mom would tuck around my body like a cocoon. She would say a prayer for me, kiss me on the forehead, wish me a good night of sleep, smile and say, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” They never did.
I spent my days at Harriet Thompson Elementary School in Grandview, Washington. After school Robby, Joey, and I would look for frogs and snakes in the creek that ran below our neighborhood. We’d drink cold Cherry Kool-Aid when we got thirsty, and we’d return to our homes when when our mom’s yelled, “Supper’s ready.”
In the middle of the fifth grade, my dad got transferred to Garland, Texas. I cried when I had to leave my childhood friends and the creek below our house. I left the nest for the first time for a new world, but I wanted to stay on Euclid Road in Grandview forever.
Henri Nouwen writes, “One of the most radical demands for you and me is the discovery of our lives as a series of movements or passages.” Everything always changes.
What is our relationship with change, movement, and passages in life?
I arrived at my new school after Christmas Break. I was the new kid, a subject of curiosity and the odd one out. I thought everyone talked funny with their Southern drawls and they thought the same of me. I was a Yankee. After lunch I had Mrs. Brownfield for English. Her temperament matched her flaming red hair. I remember her calling roll my first day of school. Mrs. Brownfield said, “Craig Paschal?” I replied from the back row, “Yeah, I’m here.”
“What did you say?” “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here.’” “Meet me in the hallway young man.”
Mrs. Brownfield informed me, “It’s Yes, Ma’am and No, Ma’am down here. None of this ‘yeah’ stuff.” She told me to bend over, and she gave me a “lick” on my behind with a hard wooden paddle that made me cry and then sent me back into the room.
The changes in life are difficult. “We live all these passages in an environment where we are constantly tempted to be destroyed by resentment, anger, and by a feeling of being put down,” says Nouwen. I wanted to go back to Harriet Thompson Elementary School, but I could not go.
When I graduated from high school, I left home for college over 350 miles away. My mom cried for a month prior, and my dad and I kept it all inside. When the moment came to leave, neither one of us could talk. We shook hands while trying to hold back the tears, but we couldn’t stop them from flowing. Surprisingly, mom was fine. Mom told me that dad and she went to eat at “Steak and Ale” that night. I think they were mourning their loss and celebrating their newfound freedom at the same time. Passages are complex.
“It seems as though we are always passing from one phase to the next, gaining and losing someone, some place, something,” writes Nouwen.
Life is a series of movements and passages. We leave our mother’s womb and enter into a bigger world. We lose our jobs and start new ones. We have children and then we let them go. Our parents care for us and then we care for them. We form new ideas and let old ones go. We move in and out of relationships. Loved ones are born and loved ones die. There are always losses.
How do we respond to losses and change?
Henri Nouwen writes, “And every time there are losses there are choices to be made. We can choose to live our losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression, and resentment or we choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider, and deeper.”
Jesus tells his disciples that he must go. He must pass on. “It is good for you that I leave, because unless I pass away, I cannot send you my spirit to help you and inspire you” (John 16:7). His gift to them and to us is his spirit of love, peace, and joy.
As we move through life, what gifts do we want to pass on?
“The question is not how to avoid loss and make it not happen, but how to choose it as a passage, as an exodus to greater life and freedom,” says Nouwen. May our passages, though they might be difficult, be gateways to greater life, love, forgiveness, and peace through the Grace of God.
Blessings and peace on your journey,