Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, January 29, 2018

BALM IN GILEAD [M, 1-29-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter…

Now that I am old, I wonder if I’m up to the traveling.

In Marilynn Robinson’s wonderful novel, Gilead, an old Iowa minister, in his last days, knowing he will die soon, is writing an extended letter to his young son. He tells about his father and grandfather, who were also ministers. He recalls that his grandfather, in his dotage, had regular conversations with God.

The minister writes: “Once he told us at supper, ‘This afternoon I met the Lord over by the river, and we fell to talking, you know, and He made a suggestion I thought was interesting. He said, “John, why don’t you just go home and be old?” But I had to tell him I wasn’t sure I was up to the traveling.’” [Page 97]

His family assumed the grandfather thought the Lord was talking about not being strong enough to travel from Iowa to Kansas.

Robinson, though, I’m sure, knew he was not thinking about being strong enough to make the trip from one place on the map to another. He was wondering if he were strong enough to make the trip from one place in the soul to another, to that place in the soul where they have to take you in, that place in the soul called home.

That’s a long trip, and I’m not sure I’m up to the traveling, either. In many ways, it’s just easier to say, “I’m not old enough to make that trip yet,” than to say, “I’m not up to the traveling.”

It takes a lot of traveling to stop trying to get somewhere, to stop trying to make a difference, to let go and just be old, to accept the grace that the only reason you are alive is that you are alive, to stop earning your way by what you do, to become a human being instead of a human doing. It’s easier to stay on the treadmill, to travel round and round in the wheel of self-justification. That’s traveling I’m used to, traveling I know how to do.

Traveling clear across the spirit to the realm of pure grace? I’m not sure I’m up to that yet.

Now that I am old, I hope to get weak enough some day to be strong enough to make that trip to home, where I don’t have to justify my existence, where it’s okay just to be old. As the spiritual says, “There is a balm in Gilead.”


Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:

I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] Having met and married while at IU in Bloomington, IN, we became Bloomarangs in May of 2015, moving back to where we started, closing the circle. We no longer live in the land of winter, but I am in the winter of my years, and so I am still trying to understand Christ in winter.

Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her latest book is, What Goes Up. It’s published in hardback, paperback, audio, and electronic, from B&N, Amazon, etc.

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