It feels like such a gift…the day the time “Falls back” and for a moment it feels like you have an extra hour of sleep. Then, suddenly, even before the required (recommended) battery change on the smoke detectors, the dark creeps in and replaces the light. There is a merging that happens as the boundaries between day and night disappear — children find their way to school in the night and the dusk falls on them as they patter home. The veil between dark and light begins to disappear.
Then again, perhaps the blending of Halloween along with Saints, Souls and remembrance — when it often feels to me like those who are absent are fully present. I marvel that grace winds itself through me and leaves a crack in my heart so that I remember. I think I hear her laughter for a second and a tear gets turned into a chuckle as I remember the early morning jokes my departed friend would tell me as we pounded the pavement in her passion to see me fit. I catch a glimpse of the stars and I remember that they are brightest from the bottom of the well and I begin to wonder what God’s experience of all of this is. If the star is a crack into the heavens, I wonder what it’s like when there is no separation between light and dark.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard Parker Palmer, an educator and theologian (and I like to think of him as my friend although I have never been even close to being in the same auditorium with him)…on a radio interview where he described the connection between the expectations of God and the expectations of parents. He said something like this, “God loves us unconditionally, but has high expectations of us. There is unconditional love, but it is not a blank check for irresponsibility. It comes with high expectations. Just like every parent. Just because God has high expectations of us doesn’t mean there is not unconditional love and don’t be afraid that loving and expecting great things cannot co-exist.” I think that’s the way it is…unconditional love, but high expectations. There is both light and dark. We can expect something extraordinary from one another and be willing to love the human.
It reminded me of our great friend, Bob Rosenfelder, SJ who worked at one moment with those who, in the grasp of the imprisonment of addiction, had killed someone while driving drunk. He worked with them after the trial, the sentencing, and the inital time in prison when life was at the most bleak. He recounted to each one the promise of the unconditional love and forgiveness of God and the civil consequences that come with action. One does not erase the other. There are consequences for our actions and there is love for the human person who seeks a new beginning.
It seems to me…this season of leaves crunching beneath our feet, when light and dark seem confused somehow and when the extra hour of sleep resembles the definition of illusion…it is a time for both the unconditional and the choice. We can choose to believe that the buds will come or we can act like the leaf that refuses to let go. We can be those who trust that even when we have defiled the high expectations, the unconditional new beginning is just around the calendar…but not until we spend some fallow time in the darkness of being made ready — the gratitude of remembering what we have been given. The confidence that the light will come. The inkling that light and dark are really the same — just different parts of the same day.
It’s time to rake the leaves — to collect what has been and to let the bare branches do their work of remembering how to create.
I’ll race you to the leaf pile!