Lenten journal: feeling fifty

Tomorrow is not only a day deeper into Holy Week, but a bit of a milestone day in the life: I’ll turn 50, in real round numbers.

A couple of people who love me have asked good-naturedly, “How’s fifty feel?”

Mostly it feels like, “Who me?”

But, the funny thing about fifty is that — for most of us, perhaps the lucky ones of us — it just falls into a week, that is itself full of work and worry, joy and jitters. And that’s how tonight feels: full of today, and the last few days, and the last few weeks when the writing has gotten the worst of the to-do list. Tonight is like facing down the ocean … with a bucket … and an eyedropper.

I have not managed to write my heartbreak over Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman, but I did manage to talk to my son, who — like a lot of white boys — doesn’t have to worry much about where he wears what or whose neighborhood he’s dubstepping through. “The point is, what are you going to do with this freedom?” I ask him. And myself. Scooping up a drop of ocean, and putting it in the bucket.

I’ve been sitting with our friend, Sue, who is dying, and her husband Joe, who is fighting the knowing, smoothing her forehead and mowing his lawn, all of it prayer. Another drop of ocean, scalding the lump in my throat.

I’ve been caught in teacher hell this week, snagged on a situation not of my making, doing all I can for restorative resolution. I can only hope this young person will do the hard work necessary to get grown; he has an ocean of work to do. All I have is the dropper of grace.

As spring greens all around us, ditches full of daffodils and churches full of palms and roadsides full of signs For and Against … frankly, tonight fifty feels behind, and outside, and weary. I play Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ella’s Song, one more time.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men,
white mothers’ sons

There is a secret to going on: that we do rest, when we can and when we must, so that tomorrow will come. It doesn’t always, but when it does, we rise to the day.

And so, tonight I will rest, and tomorrow fifty will feel like a run, and good work to do, and another prayer with Sue while we still can, and more conversations to have with young people who I want not to end up with guns in their hands or bullets in their chests.

Fifty? Fifty is another day … the just one more day anyone with sense prays for, in which to love, and be loved. Fifty is the day before my sweetheart comes home again, God willing. Fifty is halfway to somewhere sweet, gratitude all the way. Fifty is the wonder of feeling my parents hovering near, although they are years gone.

Fifty is healthy enough, strong enough, and loving enough to keep moving an ocean of life through a dropper of love into the bucket of my life, and the little bit that it will hold and share and pour out.

Fifty is not knowing who will roll away the stone, but knowing that angel will come, and there is no hard Good Friday anymore that has no Easter hidden in it. Fifty is asking “restoreth my soul,” and knowing God will.

Fifty is another day. Hosanna, amen.

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