Mon, Apr 9 2012 12:47
I am an identical twin. Like many twins, my sister and I have lived strangely parallel lives. We both married men with odd names (Marrku and Bernd respectively). We both worked in campus ministry in the Pacific Northwest and in the former Soviet Union. And we both are now employed in vocational fields from which others occasionally recoil. My sister is a hospital chaplain. When she tells people what she does – that she sits with the dying -- a good percent of her conversation partners take a literal step backwards, as if she is a carrier of the condition of her clients, as if cancer were communicable. I work in the environmental field. Because I live in Canada where “the environment” is hip, few people are physically repulsed by my vocational admission, but I have had those who stare at me as if I have something green hanging out of my nose or who change the subject so abruptly that you can hear the tires of their mind screeching.
The offensiveness of our vocations lies in their affront to status quo. The environment is just so gritty and inconvenient. Spend too much time in it and you’ll likely get dirt on your pants and sweat on your brow. Death is so messy and just plain sad. It always comes at such a bad time.
But life is born out of the messiness off death. This is the pattern of creation. The log rots, nourishing the soil, and the sapling thrives. The salmon spawns, flopping exhausted on the river’s edge, and the eagle feasts. It’s the pattern of life -- a pattern played out in creation’s never ending integration of the shadows of life and death.
This integration is like a Japanese art form. The rot, the darkness, the suffering, and the life that brings a good death get folded in and over and around and become an integrated whole. It’s the pattern of Easter over and over, folded into a life that hangs like a delicate origami crane, weightless and wonderful for all the world to see.