December 16th: There is No Such Thing as Away

One of the things I try to talk to my boys about is that there is no such thing as “away.”

Trash that we “throw away” goes somewhere, and we have to be mindful of where that is and what we do with it.

Even when you flush the toilet, that doesn’t really “go away.” It goes somewhere, and we must think hard about how we steward our planet so that we don’t poison anything.

The same is true about our inner lives, Beloved. There is no such thing as “away” when it comes to those things working in our heads and our hearts.

Oh, there’s numbing…for sure. Mindless TV. Addictions of all stripes. Adventures that “take our mind” off things.

But, truthfully, the work of therapists and the work of good clergy and the work of good social workers is the work of helping us all wrap our heads, hearts, and hands around the idea that there is no “away.”

A phrase I like to use is, “We must hug the cactus” of our issues, our past, our guilts, our foibles. In doing so, they hurt less…even though the act of doing it can be painful.

It’s interesting to talk about hugging the cactus of our issues in this season of Advent, a season of hope, joy, peace, and love, right? Usually we save that sort of stuff for Lent, right?

But let’s be honest: the increasing night hours, the forced holiday cheer, and particularly this year, this pandemic may absolutely be bringing people to a tougher place, it may be bringing up “old scratch” as we say in the South. I thought maybe I’d just name that, in case it’s the right thing to name, rather than give you another devotion that’s just really a vapid Lifetime movie about a dentist from the big city who goes home and ends up marrying a poor Christmas tree farmer in small-town Indiana.

I mean, at least I’m offering something that’s potentially real, right?

But just because there is no “away” doesn’t mean there’s no “better,” Beloved. In fact, if there’s one thing I know to be very true it is that better arrives sooner or later. It’s sometimes late to the party, but it usually brings a great side-dish in the form of a warmed heart.

It arrives…it just takes a while.

Christmas arrives, Beloved, it just takes awhile, right? At least four weeks. Sometimes longer.

Spend some time today with the things you wish were “away.” Listen to their fears. Learn from them. And then quietly, slowly, embrace them and see if you don’t find yourself in a place that’s, well, better.

Oh, and St. Elton of the John’s is quite right when he says, “Sad songs say so much…” In light of that simple truth, spin Joni Mitchell’s “River” today and see if she doesn’t speak at least a piece of your heart there.

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