By Elaine Knudtson
October 17, 2018
This morning I had a dream. I was sitting in my office at work, writing in a journal back-lit by the window behind me. It was a moment of peace; a reminder of all the years I had spent in that room before I was asked to leave it five months ago. It put me in the proper frame of mind for an encounter with God.
Paul and I were scheduled to spend the day at the St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane, Alberta. It was to be a day of silence, reflection, and prayer. Before I closed the door on my house on the way to the centre, I paused and prayed, “Lord, I’ll meet you there.”
It was a simple day. We met for a short time and pondered “Our Father who art in heaven.” There were some verses and questions to use as a guide and we were sent on our way to engage in silent meditation. I eagerly set to work, pondering the ideas that had been given to me, but I couldn’t shake my dream or the invitation I had given the Lord to “Meet you there.”
Friar Dan introduced the day by going through the Lord’s prayer. He paused on the phrase: “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” –“We forgive,” he said, “because we deserve peace.” I had never heard it explained that way before and I couldn’t shake that perspective—-We deserve peace.
It wasn’t long before I realized that God wanted to meet me at the place of my greatest pain in the past year—my office. “No, Lord,” I said. “It’s too painful. I don’t want to meet you THERE!” But that’s exactly where he took me, towards the promise of peace.
“Meet Me There”
Hang ups and mental images stowed in the scrapbooks of my mind, all dusted off for the big reveal.
“I’ll meet you there, Lord.”
It’s been too long since I heard your voice and walked beside you enjoying your presence in silence.
The Friar recites the Lord’s prayer and pauses on “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“We forgive,” he says, “so that we can have peace.”
I must unpack the hurt and confess my reluctance to forgive.
I frequently revisit the place of my pain in my dreams.
It’s always changing.
At times the room is empty; all traces of my influence gone.
Other times, it’s as if I never left.
The sun shines on the Norman Rockwell picture of the surprised teacher;
Empty desks wait forever for students who will never return in a painting my sister in law created from a photo of a Norwegian school in a museum.
The rosemaling on the black plaque blends into the wall, seldom noticed,
Until I remember my mother-in-law’s love of all things Norwegian.
Her crafts hang silently in the memory of that room.
I see the stuffed dolls and toys I brought to entertain children who visited—my children, whether by blood or responsibility.
The music wafts through the room to the ceiling of that century-old room, like monks filling the abbey with their chants.
The cupboard is filled with old photos of vacations past that I plastered on my door each September to celebrate my summer adventures.
I could never discard them, even though digitized and printed on unlined paper, I kept them to mark the passing of my time there.
The notebooks on the shelf were thinned out over the years—manuals, guides to practice—no longer needed as technology improved and everything went online.
Wisdom, experience, workshops, interdictions all captured between the covers of 3-ring binders representing the work of those who passed before me.
Their work, irrelevant, because they left, and the void was filled with fresh new voices looking for different ways to tell the same story.
Smash the idols of your predecessors as ancient voices before the enlightenment is ushered in.
Their edifices dance online in a maze of addresses with little connection to my search.
They have hidden their work in plain sight—obvious to them but too obtuse to be found by those looking for answers.
Do they think their masterpieces will remain in the museum of bureaucracy after they’re gone?
Do the generals hear their voices ringing in the field the day after the battle?
Sentiment maintains traces of the work, but soon that too will be boxed for the attic or retrieved by the trucks at Highfield to be decommissioned and destroyed.
We destroy our friends.
The enemy is merciful in ending our lives on the battlefield as we fight for a noble cause.
Those who die in battle are immortalized as heroes and we remember them.
Not so we who are retired.
“You’re the past. She is the future. I’m sorry.”
You leave me in my shame.
I’ll Meet you there. . .
I didn’t want to meet you HERE Lord.
I revisit the pain as a martyr in silence.
I collapsed as I packed my last trinket in the box; carrying it home to the arms of my husband who reinforced the offense as he sympathized with my pain.
Even the angry tirade against me rallies my hurt when I go back there.
We forgive because we deserve peace.
And so, this is where you meet me today?
- Not in the shade of the garden,
- Or on the river walk by way of the cross.
- Not in the Adirondack chairs facing the azure sky, framed by mountains, outlined in snow.
- Not even in the questions about God and heaven and our citizenship not being of this earth.
You meet me here.
In the room you returned to me in my dream this morning before it was disrupted by my successor.
Why did you bring me back to the pain, shame and unfinished sorrow?
I walked away and left it behind, running after the bobbles and adventures of retirement.
Is it because you know my feet are nailed to the threshold and I never leave that place completely?
I am locked in the frame of a picture, captured at the moment before I shut the door—
Holding my box of trinkets,
Emptying the room of all my memories,
Surrendering my legacy to the silent voices,
Listening to music that I played as a backdrop to the emails that no longer have a return address.
I’m Angry! Defeated. Humiliated. Obliterated.
5 months and not a word from those who pledged their eternal loyalty and praise.
How shallow our allegiance.
How selective our memories.
Only in eulogies or reunions do we ever renew our bonds, if only for a moment.
“I’ll meet you there.”
You stilled my frenetic pace today: the trips, the visits, the renos, the plans for meaningless encounters to fill my days.
You needed to free me from my mind-numbing routine so I could remember.
“My sheep know my voice.”
I hear your voice in the dream, in the voice of the Friar. . .
“You deserve peace.”
Who do I forgive?
- The one who replaced me? – I invited her in when I said I’d retire.
- My Director who tried to ease my transition with a plan that created an explosive combination of old and new in the tiny space of one office?
- Those I left behind?
- The system?
- The building?
The inevitability of change and leaving and fading like the flower of the field.
Am I angry with a world where I contrast the face in the mirror with 6 decades of photos where I mature, blossom, and fade.
It came so slowly one second at a time,
One season after another,
One school year after the next.
I didn’t see it until I walked out of that room:
Irrelevant, forgotten, misunderstood, following the instincts of leaders before me who were discredited by time.
Do I forgive them for leaving me behind?
Who needs forgiveness?
“I’ll meet you there.”
Take my final box of trinkets.
Carry it over the threshold.
Remind me that I have an eternal place in a kingdom that will never fade.
The world of not yet and eternally now.
“See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are. The world doesn’t know us because it didn’t know him.”
“Dear friend, now we are children of God. He still hasn’t let us know what we will be, but we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him. That’s because we will see him as he really is.” (I Jn. 3:1-2)
“I’ll meet you there, my beloved child.”