Has it really been nearly two months since my last post? Dear me. I would have missed February entirely, if leap year weren’t providing me with this extra day. It feels like a cheat, doesn’t it? Like we all get a time turner for one day.
I’m still finding my voice in this new place. I think that’s a pretty normal experience for a new minister. And it should be a pretty normal experience for someone new to the north. This place is so amazing – vibrant, resilient, resistant – that it seems like everyone who visits here has something to say about it. There are more books and studies and artwork that come out of this place, per capita, than anywhere else I can think of. The cold, dark and hardship put on the pressure, squeezing expression out of the human toothpaste tube.
It’s staggering how much creative work has been produced out of this environment. I’ve already been lent and given more books about Inuit culture than I can find time to read. I keep acquiring books in Inuktitut that I have no hope of puzzling through yet. And the painting, carving, jewelry, sewing, crocheting, weaving…. I started out wanting to do it all, but now that I see the scope of it, it’s overwhelming.
I have felt no need to add to this chorus of creativity. I felt like this when I first started knitting – the amount of work already done was so impressive, I saw no point in adding my own designs. That changed, so I’ve no doubt my own day will come to add to the panoply of Northern arts. But not yet.
Conveniently, the Inuit way of learning is to watch. Watch quietly. Try, and be corrected. So I let others do, I admire, and I try to keep my mouth shut. Then when the moment comes, I try.
What I have been trying most, these days, is ministry. Sunday mornings have stabilized into a regular enough rhythm that we can begin to think outside the box. Baptismal preparation has flowered into quite the responsibility, so I’m prayerfully leaning into that. There are other things on the go – being mentored, doing some visits, responding to calls, sermonizing, lots of prayer and reflection, but most of the remainder of my efforts goes into staying sane and leaning on God to do the impossible, because everything I can do is so small.
It’s hard to describe what all this is like. At one level, it just feels like stress – the anxiety I thought I had overcome is back, with teeth. But that’s not really accurate.
I never understood what was going on when Jacob was wrestling with God. Why would fighting with the Creator be a good thing? And how could Jacob win? And what’s with his putting Jacob’s hip out of joint? Well, at least allegorically, that’s one mystery I understand just fine now. When I lay awake nights, fighting against my own faithless worrying, I am wrestling with God. It’s God on one side and me on the other, and in some mystery, my flesh on one side and new-created spirit on the other. I am fighting myself, but demanding a blessing from God, demanding peace, when the strife itself is caused by my own persistent delusion that the salvation of anything depends on my efforts. Then when I lose, I win, because Jesus lost – died, even – so his Spirit could have this wrestling match in my heart. And that Spirit he sent, even as he turns me upside down into a new creation, does so in a way that respects my integrity as a person. So we work it out, in fear and trembling.
I’m learning to love this anxiety. I’ve learned it’s the beginning of real vulnerability. My season absent anxiety was also a season when I didn’t much care for humans. Those people I envied because they seemed so coolly invulnerable, I now realize that anxious little me has something to offer them, because I am vulnerable enough to actually love them. My vulnerability is my power, and this anxiety, as frustrating and exhausting as it is, is its seed. And in the shadow of that anxiety, one day, I will find passion and strength.
I knit these tensions, these experiments, these sleepless nights, into Dwarrowdelf. It seems appropriate that, at least on the right side of this stole, there is hardly any plain knit stitching that isn’t twisted or decreased. It’s all weaving back and forth, leaning and tightening. But at the end of eight long repeats, three long columns stand straight and tall.
I’m halfway through. The repeats ended with a border that I think of as the bases of the columns, and I fussed my own addition of beads into the eyelet triangles. It had precisely the intended effect.
Unfortunately, the three skeins of Madelinetosh “tosh merino light” which I bought half a decade ago are extremely different from each other. And I didn’t notice until I wound up the second ball. I knit the center and most of one side in the middle shade; the others are slightly lighter and a lot darker. So much darker that even if I’d alternated skeins, it would have looked like stripes. I’m glad I wound the darker one second; I might not have noticed a problem if I’d wound the other. As it is, I graded the darker one onto the end of the first wing, so I can do the same at the end of the other. It’s pretty glaring, but at least it’ll be symmetrical.
Each of these LotR projects seems destined to have some major problem or other. I’ve accepted it. It all seems appropriate right now. Right down to knitting a soft, woolly image of the dark stone halls of an ancient dwarven city, found at the end of a long, dark, fumbling journey.
The fight isn’t over, but the light is coming back.