Last night in a special church meeting, I received a pink balloon (not a typical church experience!), along with my 400 fellow congregates. It represented two things. The first was to honor the memory of Emilie Parker, who lost her life almost a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The second purpose was an invitation to mentally insert into the balloon something or someone we haven’t forgiven. And then to release the balloon into the gorgeous fall evening, letting go of our issue as the balloon rose to the heavens.
We heard throughout the evening from various speakers, sharing personal stories of faith and trial. Each was exquisite in the telling, inspiring in the examples offered. My dear friend Lizzy Jensen shared how her hospital room, where she spent eight weeks being monitored for a high risk pregnancy, became a holy place as she drew closer to God. My friend Amie Anger outlined a crisis of faith and an answer no one expected. Julia Laughlin talked about not allowing our perceptions of feeling ‘atypical’ (don’t we all feel this at some point?) to stop us from drawing closer to God and claiming that divine opportunity. Colin Stauffer invited us to access the gift of mercy for ourselves and apply it to others. David Checketts, the leader of my church in this region, talked about the accidental death of his brother thirty years before, and a lifetime of healing from that loss.
And Emilie Parker’s parents, Robbie and Alissa, in powerful and raw ways shared learning from their journey since the wrenching loss of their daughter. I cannot imagine grieving on the national stage. I cannot comprehend becoming well known for such a reason and yet, they have accepted the mantle of this responsibility. In the process, they are each finding their voices to help others.
As I pondered the gorgeous night, and thought about what should go ‘inside’ my balloon, their examples, and those of the other instructors from the evening, dear friends and strangers alike, were anchored deep in my heart. How could I hold on to my ‘stuff’? After meeting Malala Yousafzai recently and being deeply moved by her capacity for forgiveness towards the Talib who shot her, I asked myself, what can I possibly have eating away at my heart that justifies holding on to it?
“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
Excerpt from Hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Last night I realized I don’t need to experience great tragedy (though perhaps it will come) to let go of my anger and the things holding me back. But the power of these collective examples, and the fact that they are willing to be teachers, whilst they themselves are still students, sets a tone and an example I can aspire to as I look to the greatest teacher of all, my God.
I lead an extraordinarily blessed life. But since I was a little girl, I have struggled with anger. I thought my battles with this issue had long since dissipated in my twenties, but in my mid thirties, I had children. And no one warned me about how old habits come flooding back when you haven’t slept through the night in an eon and there are these small people who you love so desperately you can’t breathe, and at the same time drive you so. in. sane.
Last night, as I looked up to the inky clouds backlit by the moon, I said a prayer for Emilie and her precious family. And sent my fiery temper floating gently to the sky. I am leaving this burden at the feet of the only One who can really help me conquer it. At last.
This is the first time I have openly written about my faith on my blog but as it is integral to my identity, I hope you will find some connection with this element of who I am. I am a mother, a communicator, an agitator, and I’m a Mormon.