The old woman in my dream holds a threaded bobbin in her hand. Reaching out to me, she asks, “Do you have a device like this?” Before her hand reaches mine, I awaken with a start, hyper-aware that the day ahead holds change.
One of my spiritual practices is to write a daily haiku. Truth is that I’m not as faithful to the practice as I aspire to be. This day, however, the seventeen- syllable poem virtually jumps from my pen and onto the page.
a patchwork day ahead
scraps of life pieced together
stitched to make a whole
The stacks, piles, and collections on my desk must be cleared in order to receive an unexpected gift of a larger, more functional desk. (Thank you, Pamela Powers-Hannley!) I could easily clear the old desk by putting everything into boxes. Instead, I seize the opportunity to master the clutter and reclaim my space.
Between meetings, phone calls, and emails, I sort through papers: minutes, agendas, reports, letters, and cards. It’s like a labyrinth journey through the shared life of the congregation I’ve grown to love more deeply than I ever imagined possible. Hopes, dreams, ambitious plans, successes, failures, frustrations, disappointments – it’s all there – a colorful patchwork of light and dark, sunshine and shadow. Together, it all makes for a real life, a whole life that is woven fine with both joy and sorrow.
I arrive back at home after a long, full day to a front hallway filled with boxes that had come in the mail. They’re from my 87-year old mother who recently moved into an assisted living facility. Though tired to the bone, curiosity gets the better of me and I open one of the boxes.
My heart sinks a little. More of the same, I think, more stuff to be sorted. I work my way through my hospital birth certificate, a page from my baby book, my baptismal certificate, two Bibles, ration books from World War II, an assortment of hand-embellished linens, a Shirley Temple dress, a blue and white plate from Norway dated 1970, more linens, and finally, the item that brings me to tears: the flower garden quilt made by my great-grandmother, the patchwork quilt I slept under as a child.
At the church, we’ve begun a conversation about our vision for the future. The future exists in relationship to the past. The past is always with us. It has a strong allure and its artifacts are always tinted with nostalgia. We can choose to repeat its familiar patterns if our intent is to replicate the past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or we can choose to build on the past with the intent to transcend its limitations.
My day finally ends. I lay down to sleep with the image of the old woman of my dream in mind. The device she holds is the one that stitches the thread of past, present, and future together into one whole piece. Isn’t this what we do in religious community?