Monday, May 11, 2015

Not Mine to Keep

What Thou hast given, Thou canst take,
And when Thou wilt new gifts can make.
All flows from Thee alone;
When Thou didst give it, it was Thine;
When Thou retook'st it, 'twas not mine.
Thy will in all be done.  
                                 --  John Austen

I must admit, I've had some moments of panic lately.  When I asked my husband for a divorce a month ago, I knew I needed to let him go.  I knew I needed to let my marriage of 27 years go.  Just like I believe God brought my husband and I together, I believe God wants me and my husband to live apart.  But, there are times when I wonder if I did the right thing.  It's not easy causing such upheaval.  It's not easy hurting someone you still care about. It's definitely not easy letting go of a person you have been connected to for a very long time.

But I don't think it matters whether that connection is to a spouse, or a parent, a sibling, a child, a friend, or even a community of people.  It doesn't matter whether you want to sever the connection or not.  It also doesn't matter if you love them or hate them.  It doesn't even matter whether you believe the dis-connection itself is for better or worse.  Letting go of someone is never easy. 

Personally, I'm not sure it's even possible to entirely sever some connections.  Once you have connected emotionally to a person, or even a place, or even some things, whether positively or negatively, a part of you will always resonate with that person, place, or thing -- maybe not as keenly as before, but always to some degree, for as long as you can remember that object.  Distance does not sever some connections at the sub-atomic level, so why would it do so for us who are made up entirely of sub-atomic particles?

And yet, we are also separate objects (made up of separate particles).  We can leave a place we love, or a person.  We can let go of things.  It's not only possible, it's sometimes necessary.  Children are supposed to leave home, and parents are supposed to encourage their independence, and their leave-taking.  And ultimately, whether we want to or not, we all must die, leaving behind every person, place, or thing, we ever knew. 

And so, if both separation and union are incontrovertible facts of life, how do we balance our separateness with our unity? 

I think we must hold them, both our unity and our separateness, loosely.  Neither can be thought of, or clung to, as if they were a possession.  My children will always be my children, but at the same time, they are not mine to keep.  My spouse was never my possession, nor was I his.  The place I call home is temporary.  The life I live will not always be the same.  I will not always be the same person I am today.  Nor will anyone else.  And so, the connections that are formed will change naturally.

That isn't how I have always thought about unity, however.  Unity in my mind was symbolized by the traditional vows I made at my wedding:  "I take thee ... to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part."   I took these vows seriously.  They became symbolic to me of many kinds of unity:  unity among friends, among Christians, among neighbors, among all people. 

These wedding vows are still meaningful to me, but now I know that we cannot "take" someone and "have" them forever.  We can only hold them, more or less loosely.  But we can do that, and everything else, always with great love.    

May the Peace
which passes understanding
be with you 


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