I've been here at my church for a year now. Earlier this fall, I decided that it was about time to act on some of the specific reasons for which I had at one time believed that I had been called to ministry, and to offer some possibilities for small group spiritual formation.
As I looked out over the congregation week after week, I saw a need for some support of the many widows among us. Eventually that thought broadened to include all those who had suffered major losses, which is everyone, including our few young people. I've put together a short (four weeks), erratically meeting group called "Contending with Loss." It's an opportunity for people to share their own stories in light of that of Naomi and her daughters-in-law.
As it turns out, six women have shown up: four of them widows, and two who are caretakers for husbands with devastating disabilities. The first week, we talked about the basics: what happened to Naomi and family, and what has happened to each of them.
Yesterday, we got a bit further into the story, trying to imagine all the realities of life which the Bible narrative leaves out. The question I then posed to our little group was: What are all the other losses associated with the big ones in your own lives, all of the related visible and especially the invisible losses?
I'm not sharing my own story in this group; I'm trying to pose questions and listen and keep us on track (a challenge!). I'm not sure which I'm learning more about: the universality of the invisible losses, or the challenges of what is essentially group spiritual direction.
In a few weeks, we'll meet again to review some of the adventures of Naomi and Ruth, and to talk about the surprising ways in which other people show up and help us contend with the challenges of new lives. I want to offer some possibilities for optimism to a group of women for whom the holidays are decidedly not a time of joyous anticipation.
I'm not unrealistic. It's taken me four years of intentionality with respect to prayer and spiritual direction to glimpse God working through the people who surround me. But I hope that these ladies I love will begin to see bits and pieces of their own stories through the prism of Scripture, and to recognize themselves as sisters to these women of long ago.
Image: He Qi, Ruth and Naomi (1994)