Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is strange to me that a day can be filled with such grief and such beauty, that the two can exist even at the same time, the same moment.

Yesterday, was a day harder than any I have faced, I think.  My beloved buttercup, my precious petunia, my darling daffodil is needing me to make a decision I cannot make. That sooner rather than later is upon me, yet there is no clear line in the sand which we have crossed.  I can continue to support him with medication and to hang on to him; we have not reached the point where my vet believes to do so would be cruel.  But he is not well.

Funny, much of his distress is mental!  He whines miserably when making a bed and he will do so for 5, 10, 15 minutes.  It is excruciating to watch.  It is painful for him because in making a bed, he is resting his body weight on his back legs.  It is painful yet he persists.  My vet says this is because his mind is trapped in the action, not understanding, not connecting his own actions are causing him harm.  He is frantic, frenetic about it.

Now, he has become the same about playing with me in the evenings.  Whining, panting, begging to play again and again and again.  No matter how much time I spend on the floor with him, he comes back to me again.  He is trapped in a need to play.

And when he does play he falls all the time.  All the time. His back legs are not strong enough to leap about this way and that, yet he believes himself to still be that puppydog.  He does not hurt himself when he falls, but you can see the distress of the fall in his eyes.  He stops, looks befuddled, even frightened, and then gets back to nosing one of his babies into my lap, into my hands until we play once more.

So, I have to make this decision, I have to pick the day of his death. 

My sister actually called to ask how Kashi was doing.  Of course I started weeping as I told her the choice I faced and she suggested that I ask Bettina to tell me when she could come, essentially having my best friend make that choice for me.  But Bettina is busy up until August.   I am not sure my buttercup can wait that long.

And then my boss spent the day punishing me for being absent.  It was horrible, a new high (or low) in her cruelty.  I wept the entire way to church and through the entire service.  Huddled there in the pew, hot tears streamed down my face as sobs wracked my body.  I did not think I could take even one more day with my boss; I cannot kill my dog.

Even though I was this mass of human misery, the new pastor brought me the Lord's Supper in the pew with such care as I could never have believed.  He prayed before he gave me Christ's body, then again before offering Christ's blood, then afterward he prayed, traced the cross upon my forehead, and blessed me.  Christ was shouting at me, "I love you, Myrtle!"

Even as I was telling Him I cannot take another step down the path in front of me, even in my great anguish I could hear Him.  It was the new pastor's kindness, but it was Christ's mercy.  Beauty in the midst of great sorrow.

Tonight, I girded my loins and bearded the lion's den.  That is to say, I was able to have confession/absolution with the new pastor.  Although the evening was too long, I was able to speak with him on my own and to say the things I wished to say, the things I wished him to know so this whole being a part of another parish could actually happen. It was horribly late, and I feel already great guilt about the evening lost with his Lovely Bride.  Yet I savored all parts of the difficult conversation and even as I struggled through speaking my sins in absolution. 

You know I believe confession/absolution to be this great exchange.  I pour before God my hurt and sin and shame and He hands back to me, through His undershepherd, the good things of Christ, the Living Word, the sweet, sweet Gospel.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~Hebrews 10:19-22

He told me that the writer of Hebrews was speaking to Jews who were horrified at the thought of entering the holy place, as it was not for them.  But Jesus made them holy by tearing apart that veil, just as His flesh was torn apart by the spear in His side, so that the very place the could never enter was made their home.

When he got to the "let us draw near" part, I blurted out "Law," which stopped him short.  Then he gave me a wonderful example of the imperative (command) of Gospel.  If he held out his watch and said, "Take this," he would be giving me a command, but it would be a command to receive a gift.  So, not something that we would do, but something that we would receive. That is what Gospel imperatives are like.  We can draw near with confidence precisely because of Christ, not because we are good or faithful or godly in our lives.  The Word is not telling we have to draw near, but rather that Christ is standing there, arms held wide, inviting us close so that He can take us into His body, heal us, strengthen us, sustain us.

Did you spot the Lord's Supper and Holy Baptism in that passage?  I did not.  I did not at all.  And that, my friends, is precisely why God gives us undersheperds to instruct us!

Our hearts are inside us. They are inside us, but they are being sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ.  The blood of Christ.  The very blood of Christ I took into my body last night!  And the washing is the washing clean Christ does as His name is placed upon us in Holy Baptism!

He gave me this passage because of the bit about our hearts being sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.  He was not saying that I am evil, though I am a sinner, but that my conscience carries the evil born against me and as such is a great and terrible that is taken away on the Cross and taken away in the waters of my baptism and taken away in the Lord's Supper and taken away, tonight, in Holy Absolution.

Such a beautiful evening after a punishing day.  Beauty in the midst of heartache.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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