Thursday, June 3, 2010


Always both things at once: a bench in a cemetery in memory of my beloved son, and a baccalaureate service and graduation ceremony tonight and tomorrow night.

Seminary has been a very different experience from the one I had anticipated.  (Understatement there.)  Many, many years ago, when it was nothing more than a passing thought (or so I surmised) in my mind, I had lunch one day with a student in-process from my then-church.  He was in (or past!) mid-life, a hugely successful trial attorney; I was a mother of three young children.  "Academically, you won't have any trouble," he said.  "As an attorney, you're accustomed to digesting vast amounts of unfamiliar material."  (What can I say?  He's Methodist, and so Greek and Hebrew were not in the picture for him.)  "But at this time of life, there are other things . . . ".

Oh yeah.  There are.

Yesterday, someone from my school posted a FB comment for someone else: "I can promise you that nothing in life will ever be as difficult as that Greek paper you just finished for Dr. X."

I can't say that I exactly laughed.  And seriously, my hopes for the two of them go something like this:

As we planted flowers around the bench the other day, my friend, whose husband has been seriously ill and increasingly and almost completely disabled over the last sixteen years, told me of a conversation she had had with a friend when our kids were small and she was agonizing over where to send her son to preschool.  (Thankfully, she eventually chose the Montessori school in which my children were enrolled, setting the stage for our wonderful friendship of twenty years.)  Her friend, a Holocaust survivor, leaned over and said, "Sweetie . . . may this be the most difficult challenge of your life."

Well, I thought Greek was pretty awful when it was on my plate, and Hebrew wasn't much better.  But overall, my academic career has gone well.  I wish I could have been involved in the activities and events to which I had looked forward during my second and third year of seminary but, as I've said before, grief takes about 500% of your energy.  Whatever else you have to do gets squeezed into what's left.  So I squeezed in what I could, and fantastic professors and wonderful friendships came my way.  And while I wondered pretty much 24/7 what I could possibly have to offer in ministry, I don't think I ever wavered from the sense that it is the call to which God is beckoning me.  Even when God's silence was deafening.  Oh, I wobbled a lot.  I guess it's a good thing that I crossed all those creeks via unstable logs when I was growing up.  I wobbled a LOT, but  I didn't fall off.

Last night I got an email from someone at my field ed church, telling me how much it meant to have me there, knowing that as the year passed, I was experiencing the holidays as she was.  I had not known that she felt that way.  I figured that people just thought that . .  oh, who knows what they thought?  But at least one person was apparently seeing it more or less like this: "She knows exactly the sorrow I know, and she's leading the Call to Worship anyway." 

That's something. 

Perhaps that's why . . . 

I'm graduating!  (And yes, I'm going.)


(P.S. Three more miles  yesterday and three in the next couple of hours, for a total of 13.  I'm somewhere in the vicinity of Wellfleet now.)


  1. Ido think that is something...grace upon grace that you found within you the ability to witness for this woman the stamina to put one foot in front of the other, a stamina which then sustained her too. As I prepare to preach this Sunday, for the second Sunday in a row since last Sept. I'm thinking about the idea that when despair has left us empty of everything else, there is nonetheless a place deep inside the emptiness where hope survives. I've tried to push this hope away, to call it Pollyanna, naive, foolish. And, yet, it nudges me, as I sense you have nudged that woman a time or two this year.

    May graduation be a time and place of joy, all things considered.

  2. Since you studied hebrew and worked at a Jewish school, you'll understand MAZEL TOV, Robin! Through everything--discernment, disappointment, sorrow beyond comprehension, doubt, retreats, triumphs, and incredible accomplishments, you've been filled with grace, intelligence, sensitivity, and openness. May God bless you as you graduate from seminary and begin yet another chapter of you.
    I'm proud to call you my friend and hope to see lots of pictures from the festivities.

  3. I'm so grateful for what you wrote...the humor and perspective of the Holocaust suvivor (and isn't that what we are, too, in a way?), the perspective on surviving those exams and papers, and the message from the woman in your field-ed church. All seem to point to the call you have answered.

    It means so much to me that God called a man like Saul of Tarsus to spread the good news. What a "metanoia" that was, and how great an example for us! If we aren't broken open, how can we have room for God? Our egos will bind us too strongly. God seems to use whatever is at hand to draw us closer to Him. It seems to me that our "perfection" can never serve Him the way our brokenness can. The more I learn, the more I believe that He isn't looking for perfection in us, but love, instead. May you feel immersed in His love as you share in your graduation ceremonies. XOXOXO

  4. I am just so proud of you, for your courage, your commitment, for honoring and following your call, and for the love that shows in everything of yours I've read. Oh yeah, your graduation too.

  5. I emphatically agree with every word that's already been written to you. This is a moment that you have more than earned, and like the woman in your church who thanked you, I thank you too for all you have given us, your privileged readers. It's been a difficult journey, but WOW, you did it. Enjoy that graduation. A new story begins.
    Love and congratulations, Dear Robin.

  6. AMEN to all the above comments ...I continue to be in awe of your strength and courage ... and grace.

  7. Amen and amen. One of the ways to say congratulations in Spanish is "en hora buena". The best way to translate the intent is--you find yourself in a good hour. A good hour it is, indeed, for the Church Universal.

  8. Thinking of you all day today!! With much love - congratulations!

  9. Coming in late, getting to say "Amen" again! You are a blessing to many, and will continue to be so. Congratulations. Peace. Love to you.

  10. Congratulations. I'm sure you will be a fine pastor in the mold of Fr. Tim.