One Year Later

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It’s exactly a year to the day since the Vine ended, one of the most ash-grey moments of my life.

I don’t know why, but up until this point, I have felt very little about all of it. I did not experience anything but bone-weary relief when the Vine closed. I did not mourn when we sold our house, moved from the city that we had tried to call our home. I did not cry when we said goodbye to our friends, smiles on our faces like paint on cracked plaster.

I don’t know exactly why that all changed this last weekend.

Perhaps it was simply this year mark.

Perhaps it was being on a retreat with my new faith community, seeing the faces around me, and thinking about the people who are no longer in my life.

Perhaps it was having the retreat led by the pastor of a new church, one I had helped out during their opening worship gathering, in the very same weeks that the Vine was drawing to a close.

Perhaps it was the Taize music, bringing back nights and morning in a tiny house in our early years: two couples praying, over-full on hope; all those dreams painful rubble just a few years later.

But, for the first time this weekend, I wept.

And I missed it.

I missed the best moments of the church I tried so desperately to plant, of the times when I saw people come alive, when I watched friendships blossom, when I experienced those giddy times when I knew we were undiluted outpourings of God’s goodness to our world. I miss those moments when I felt like I had discovered an expression of church that didn’t require all the backdoor institutional compromises, one that felt like the purest offering of love that I could lift up with my life.

I miss my house. This is perhaps the most visceral of my losses. It was a glorious home; one that offered us the very best of what gave us life and the very best of what we hoped our lives would be. I miss our hardwood floors and big windows. I miss our double sized living room, our working fireplace, our wall to wall bookshelves. I miss the meandering curve of our second floor hallway and my office with its slate green walls, contemplative windows, and solid wood-block of a desk. I miss our quiet bedroom, our hopeful sitting room, our lead glassed windows, our small hidden cabinets. I miss the promise of our empty third floor, decorated with the prayers and hopes of our friends and family, waiting for a future spring, full of guests, children, and joy.

There is much that I don’t miss: the suspicious water spots on the ceiling, the sloping pitch of the floor, the sinking feeling, as our dreams slipped through our hands, that we really couldn’t afford a place like this and still build a life together.

Still, I know we will never live in a house that beautiful again.

And –  I miss, I miss my city, which still feels like home.

I miss the unpretentious beauty of its old houses.

I miss the downtown in all its struggle and hope.

I miss our friends: the young hipsters, the idealistic boomers, the dirty-fingernailed street people, the beautiful children, and the good hearted business owners.

I miss the trees and the lakes.

I miss the farms.

I miss the feeling of roots, of love for place that grew from stilted practice to effortless habit within me.

While its landscape is scarred with trauma and hurt, while often the very crosswalks and stop signs taste of bad memories, of deep doubt, of creeping, bitter disappointment, while I don’t know that I could ever have been more than a dancing puppet of my best self there, I still miss it.

I miss it. I miss it. I miss it.

I feel like I’m at a pause right now, catching my breath on a journey to somewhere. And, I admit, this pause is indeed a pleasant, peaceful, healing one.

But there are days I look back at the road behind me,

See the shape of that stillborn future,

And weep.

“By the rivers of Babylon—

   there we sat down and there we wept

   when we remembered Zion.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

   let my right hand wither!

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,

   if I do not remember you.”

Psalm 137

8 thoughts on “One Year Later

  1. you’re in my heart. I too poured my life and dreams into the ministry of Melita House and fled to Chebeague to grieve when it ended. Somehow that wonderful gospel hymn helped mr,
    He who began a good work in you… Will see it to the end in you- just not the way we hoped and dreamed.
    Linda

  2. Such a beautiful and poignant lament, Ben. I’m so glad you were on the HGW retreat. I hope it brought some healing even as it brought tears.

  3. Ben,
    I have followed your journey from my own retirement. Life is wonderfully full of twists and turns and goodness and messyness. You are gifted you are loved by the kindom of holy you are smart you are prepared you are FULL of potential. You have many more deep experiences yet to come. Grief joy happiness sadness all part of the wonder of a God driven life.

  4. It’s good to grieve and get it out. You put a lot of yourself into the Vine, and sometimes it takes the full amount of time of letting go of why you needed to leave when you did to get to the core of it: that you loved it and it’s over now. And God takes care of everything and everybody – you, Melissa, the city of Haverhill, your old Vine members, the community you’re becoming apart of now. Though pruned, this, you, God’s people will flourish.

  5. Ben: I just read this “One Year Later” text after listening to you be interviewed by Beth Estock in your recent podcast (loved it). Amazing the healing that has taken place one year after “one year later”. I sense more contentment and being in touch with who you are and the multifaceted life you currently lead. I do agree with your comments on your ecclesiastical yearnings; we had that for a short period ( learned so much); and for that I cannot return to what I thought church was before. The world (Jesus and God) is so much bigger now.

    1. Thanks Keith. It’s amazing how this experience has changed all of us; if not always in ways that were pleasant at the time, probably for the best in the end!

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