This is an expanded version of the first Christmas letter, the one that felt right to me. Eric liked it but couldn't imagine it actually going out to all of our list and said he'd rather see it on the blog. This is first and always a partnership, so I agreed. Here is the thing, I wrote another letter, it's a compromise letter and that's the one that is going into the envelopes. I'm not completely happy with it but anything I wrote that didn't mention or even hint at Greg's death felt really flat and inauthentic to me. I finally realized that nothing was going to feel right this year. So I wrote a letter and put it out to print - don't get me wrong, I like the letter, it's just not what is in my heart this year... The below post, this is what is in my heart.
Imagine a large open space of any sort ~ empty room, open field, basketball court, fairway. Now put yourself there, put me there too, then add about twenty other people. Put us all in a circle. We don't all have to hold hands or anything like that. Just put us in a circle and put a man in the center of that ring. The man is standing, unmoving and we are staring at him.
Each of us would have a different perspective of that man, not one of us would see the same man. Some of us would see his face full on, some in profile, and some would only see if he combed the back of his hair.
Furthermore, not one of us would see the whole man. That isn't our privilege.
No, each of us would have our own perspective.
And not one of us would have his perspective.
My brother-in-law Greg died this summer. Since his death I’ve met with varying versions of his life story along with various reactions to his death. We all have a perspective. Each of us have a different perspective. Probably the hardest thing to accept is that not one of our perspectives would be the same as his. Again, not our privilege.
We’ll never know ~ no matter if we were achingly close, or viewed him from a distance ~ who he was and what led to his death.
How can we possibly live with this mystery?
It’s against human nature to accept the idea of something staying forever an unknown. We like our mysteries solved. CSI, Nancy Drew, and who will be our next president. Solved. Answered. Easy. We want solutions, clear and precise, so we don’t have to think any longer. Many people knew that my brother in law had died, I missed work, I left the state, the children were pulled from their regularly scheduled activities. So when we returned there were questions. People wanted the mystery of a man dead in the prime of life solved. Those questions could prove awkward but really they were manageable. I'd tell the truth and if shock ensued, well, curiousity killed the cat - ask questions at your own peril.
Those questions aren't the questions I'm talking about though. I'm not talking about what happened, that is painful but easily understood. I'm talking about some really hard questions. Most of these hard questions start with why. And they are not easily answered. In fact, I'm certain that the truth will never be understood by the living. It will stay a mystery, each of us will have a perspective but if we are honest with ourselves we will know that our perspective is only a small fraction of the answer and quite possibly dead wrong.
But aren’t we meant to wonder about the meaning of things? Didn't God mean for us to contemplate ideas as complex as Christ’s birth, his life, and his death. Heady stuff.
Didn't He also mean for us to perplex over concepts as wondrously simple as our own children? I look at my children and wonder, where are they headed, and sometimes even where the heck did they come from? Gifts from God? Really?
A good Lutheran would say it’s all a matter of discernment. I try to determine: What does God want for my Jay; smart, fun loving but with a razor sharp sense of justice? What does God want for my Henry; clever, popular with a delightful dawning sense of humor? What does God want for my Ana; beautiful, diligent, and a dazzling capacity to love? And finally what did God want for Greg?
We struggle with our questions and we develop our own perspectives, each absolutely different from the man’s standing next to us, not one of them completely right. Somehow I wonder if all of those millions of perspectives, jammed together as a whole, come close to making up the perspective of Him.
We each have our own view through the dark waiting season of Advent to the light of Christ’s coming. He gave us each our own perspective and I suppose in some strange way there is some perfection there. Perspective, Thanks be to God.