Lessons on Limit and Love

I’m not sure where to begin, really.  There is so much to say, while at the same time it’s difficult to find the words to share.  I feel so very full and, simultaneously, emptied out.

Many of you expressed concern that having to step back from parish ministry would be difficult for me.  In fact, it wasn’t hard at all.  I had all that I could handle with my own healing process, not to mention my Mom’s illness and death, as well as Wallace’s graduation and launching as a freshman at University of Illinois.  I truly couldn’t have carried anything beyond my immediate scope, and so I received with gratitude the grace that our amazing community of love gave so generously.  I could not have managed without the extraordinary support of the staff, Wardens, Vestry, my family and the prayers and lovingkindness of this parish every step of the journey.

I have come a very long way in these months, and it is indeed good to be back in your midst, even as I follow my medical team’s direction to go slowly.  For now, I am working only 12-15 hours per week.  Immediate priorities focus on reconnecting with leadership and parishioners through Sunday mornings, some Wednesday evenings and key meetings, as well as joining the preaching and reflection rotations.  When I am able to sustain that level of engagement, there will be additional incremental steps toward full-time.

Like most people, I didn’t know much about brain injury—it isn’t obvious like a broken leg.  So, let me share some of my experience and what I’m learning. I’m grateful that I no longer suffer from the chronic headaches and cognitive fog that initially were my constant companions.  I do, however, continue to experience some residual cervical spine issues and mental/memory gaps.  My executive functioning, multi-tasking abilities and processing speed are compromised as the frontal lobe continues to heal from the initial brain bleed.  I am easily overloaded by too much information at one time or by focusing for too long.  I appreciate that that is true to some degree for all of us.  My own ability to hold information and change gears drops off far more dramatically now.

Limiting my hours and the scope of my responsibilities enables me to be more effective.  Although no one can say definitively what level of functioning will ultimately return, the healing process can take up to a year, and I’ve made good progress so far.  Your continuing prayers and understanding will be greatly appreciated.

It has been, and continues to be, a crash course in learning to live with limits—something that has long been my Achilles’ heel.  While I’ve always known that I am limited, of course, I very often sought to live beyond my real limits in unhelpful ways.  This season of my life, with its dramatic diminishment of some of my normal abilities, has been and continues to be an essential teacher.  I am learning how to give authority neither to the limit itself nor even to my response to that limit’s impact.  I am practicing being content with what is and discovering the pearl of great price hidden within that acceptance.  Curtis Almquist, former associate at St. Simon’s and monk in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, recalls the church’s ancient understanding of detachment as contentment:

Contentment is about what we have now.  Be really present to your life now.  Accept your life. That’s one aspect of detachment: claiming freedom in your life in the context of its limitations.  In life you cannot have it all, and you shouldn’t.  Live your life on life’s terms; live your life as a yes.  Don’t live your life constantly itching for something more, or resentful for something less.  Be grateful for what is.  Be content.

It is, Curtis goes on to say, both a high calling as well as an enormous freedom.  I know many of you live within the confines of limit and loss as well—life very often isn’t exactly the way we’d like it to be and, in some cases, may never be again.  It is easy to feel tossed about by the challenges of life, but Jesus shows us how to anchor deeper than the surface waves, into the bedrock of the limitless love of God.  How might you claim the freedom in your life in the context of a limitation today?
Elizabeth Jameson