My family is experiencing many transitions. My oldest child is about to begin a new school year at a new school. My youngest child is about to transition into the upper elementary classroom, the final stop on her Montessori journey. And, after five years of seminary classes and internships, I am about to begin my first year of ministry and I am planning my ordination. Summer is indeed coming to an end.
At times, it feels like my household — my family and even our home itself — is holding its breath. It is as though we have taken a deep lung-filling inbreath, but we are not yet allowed to exhale. Our preparation and planning have filled us with that fine mixture of curiosity and anxiety known as anticipation. But we cannot yet taste the relief, the exhale, of beginning the new thing. I wonder if you can relate to this as UUCC prepares for the new congregational year and Rev. Paige’s joyful return from sabbatical?
I am reminded of two very different circumstances in which I might take in a deep breath and hold it. The first is when I am bracing myself, as I might do when I am about to jump into cold water or after someone yells “heads up!” The second is when I am preparing for something joyful, like blowing out candles or singing in a choir. In one case, I am marshaling resources and hunkering down for a jolt to my system. In the other I am gathering my body and mind to let go, to move forward, and to create something new.
So, which is it? As my family holds its breath, are we preparing for a jolt to our system? Or are we gathering our resources and our wits to move forward into a new future? Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference. Sometimes it is both. So often, that is the nature of big transitions.
At the high school I attended, it was the tradition that the choir would sing an a cappella arrangement of a traditional Irish blessing at the end of every commencement ceremony. The graduates in the choir would join in the singing and, without fail, tears flowed. I remember taking that deep breath and singing alongside friends as they graduated. I also remember, when it was my turn to graduate, taking that deep breath and feeling my own moment of transition — of “farewell” and “here goes nothing” — as I exhaled into the beginning of the song.
And so, as we all prepare for the next chapter to begin, I offer a version of that same Irish blessing for our journeys:
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may the Love that surrounds us all,
Hold you in the palm of its hand.
With affection and gratitude,