Soul Geyser…

Maybe you’ve been to Yellowstone and seen Old Faithful?  That’s the one that gushes on schedule, the heat of the earth bursting out every 70 minutes or so.  Other geysers are less predictable.  We were walking past one in the frigid mountain air of November ’95 when one busted up, baptizing my oldest daughter in sulfur.  You just never know when the depths will come pouring out.

This past weekend was a soul geyser.  My sister, my only sibling, died in 1995, just a week before we moved to Seattle, and a week after we’d been with her and her family down in Bakersfield, CA.  She left four children, none of them yet even in their teens, and a gaping hole in my heart as we were just getting to know each other as adults.

Ah, but life goes on.  Our respective families grew up, our life in Seattle took root, her husband remarried, a wonderful woman who became the mom to my nieces and nephews.  All of us have been building lives these past years,  but mine was two states away, which meant getting together was rare.  My niece, though, went to San Diego state and so, as speaking or conferences landed me down there, I’d meet her for a meal.  Just that little connection, that hour or two every couple years, was priceless.  She graduated, met a fellow tuba player from the marching band, and this past weekend got married.  I officiated, and the day was a soul geyser, not of gushing sentiment, but of profound gratitude.

I found myself giving thanks to the Lord for the way He’s cared for my nephews.  Each of them have grown into marvelous men.  I gave thanks for my brother in-law too, who weathered the storm of losing his spouse at the age of 42 without becoming paralyzed by bitterness or regret.  A short but priceless conversation at the rehearsal dinner could be summed up this way:  God has been faithful.  I thought back to the days when I was 12 and he was dating my sister, and how I slowly became convinced that he was the best thing that ever happened to her.

And there’s my niece.  I’ve never seen a bride smile so constantly, so genuinely, so beautifully, all the wedding day long.  She and her new husband are both tenderhearted people who laugh and cry easily.  It’s beautiful to behold.  I did the ceremony and managed to shed a tear only once, at the beginning.  Afterwards, though, when she was dancing with her dad, I had to go off by myself for a minute and shed a few more tears of sorrow because I so wished my sister could be there to share this day, and because I miss her still, and this day more then any other, brought the ‘missing’ to the surface.  But intermingled were tears of joy because look at it all: Fifteen years later and here we all are, dancing, celebrating love, new great-nieces and -nephews storming around, climbing trellises and playing in the dirt. Life has gone on, but not just gone on – it’s gone on beautifully.   “My God – you have been good.”

And that’s the way of it.  Sorrow and joy, intermingled.  Loss and celebration, woven in the cord of life, sometimes so closely together that you can’t tell the one from the other.  I came away from the weekend realizing that there runs, in all of us most likely, a deep river of feeling.  I understand that we can’t let that river be the sole life force that governs us; we’d be paralyzed and overwhelmed if we did.  But sometimes the deep will burst forth, and we’ll find ourselves grieving loss, or celebrating beauty, or terribly lonely or grateful, or maybe all of it at once.  When that happens, we’re richer for stepping into it.  When it comes to soul geysers, control is vastly overrated.

Thank you, Shepherd of our souls, for the mingling of joy and sorrow that runs so deeply in our souls.  The sorrow makes us long for wholeness, long for the day when death will be conquered and all will be whole.  The joy makes us grateful for the hints of eternity, for the way you’ve made us to cherish intimacy, beauty, hope, laughter.  Grant that we might run from neither, in order that the soul river running deep, might become the nourishment waters our life in You.  And thanks for the wedding, and your shepherding of my family.  It was, and is, marvelous.

Amen…and Amen.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • jill

    This is beautiful… as a newlywed of 6 weeks and a former Yellowstone summer employee, your story spoke to my soul today. Thank you for sharing your geyser experience.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/jadeejf Beth

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m crying just thinking about it- tears of both sadness for your loss and happiness for such a wonderful day. I really appreciate how you take everyday occasions and transform them into something much deeper. Surfing… weddings… etc. It’s a wonderful gift.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/jadeejf Beth

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m crying just thinking about it- tears of both sadness for your loss and happiness for such a wonderful day. I really appreciate how you take everyday occasions and transform them into something much deeper. Surfing… weddings… etc. It’s a wonderful gift.

  • http://kristidahlstrom.wordpress.com Kristi

    This is one of my favorite things you’ve ever written. So beautiful. Thanks.

    • Kyle Tyler

      Agreed. I re-read this post often.

      “Life has gone on, but not just gone on – it’s gone on beautifully.”

  • Allison

    Wow … powerful, Richard. I remember embracing you, Donna and your grief at Bethany when your sister died. You were yet unknown to us, and yet that universal sense of unexplicable loss resonates between us humans so powerfully.

    Since that time over 15 years ago, I have grown to love you guys with so much ferocity, that now the loss plays out in the dearth of shared moments today. But it’s really a loss born from blessing: of a busy church and busy, rich lives very different from the ones in which we first connected, laughed, cried, and broke bread together. And even with the sense of longing for more I agree … through it all abundance, a sense of family, even if it is just a couple hours every year or so. The tapestry we weave together is so much bigger than our individual strands, no?

    Sending you both much love and and thankfulness for the full circle moment you were able to experience this weekend. We are always in your corner, with hearts full of thanksgiving for the gift you are in our, and so many, lives. XO times infinity. :)

    • raincitypastor

      Oh man, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. The finiteness of calling and relationships makes the kind of depth that comes with regular contact very difficult for donna and me. But knowing that there are those with whom we can share briefly, and yet share honestly, knowing that the connection runs deep – this is a gift for which we’re both profoundly grateful. It was a great weekend and, as with so many events of late, makes me grateful to God for both his faithfulness, and the calling I’ve been given. All of it is because of grace!

  • Allison

    Wow … powerful, Richard. I remember embracing you, Donna and your grief at Bethany when your sister died. You were yet unknown to us, and yet that universal sense of unexplicable loss resonates between us humans so powerfully.

    Since that time over 15 years ago, I have grown to love you guys with so much ferocity, that now the loss plays out in the dearth of shared moments today. But it’s really a loss born from blessing: of a busy church and busy, rich lives very different from the ones in which we first connected, laughed, cried, and broke bread together. And even with the sense of longing for more I agree … through it all abundance, a sense of family, even if it is just a couple hours every year or so. The tapestry we weave together is so much bigger than our individual strands, no?

    Sending you both much love and and thankfulness for the full circle moment you were able to experience this weekend. We are always in your corner, with hearts full of thanksgiving for the gift you are in our, and so many, lives. XO times infinity. :)

  • Rachel

    I love this post so much too, especially your message of life going on, and in beautiful ways. I had the privilege of getting married in the sanctuary at Bethany a few months ago, and had similar emotions on my wedding day.

    I lost my dad to cancer when I was 19 and remember thinking how sad I would be someday when he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle. But you know what? When it came time to plan out that walk (and when we discovered that the aisle is not quite wide enough for both of my grandpas to walk me down) it actually felt right to walk down on my own. I was filled with joy as I looked straight ahead at my future husband, and side to side at the many friends and family members who have helped me grow throughout the years. My grandpas also stood at the end and helped walk me up the stairs to my groom. It was a beautiful moment, and I am so thankful that God filled my heart with happiness. I will cherish that moment forever!

  • Rachel

    I love this post so much too, especially your message of life going on, and in beautiful ways. I had the privilege of getting married in the sanctuary at Bethany a few months ago, and had similar emotions on my wedding day.

    I lost my dad to cancer when I was 19 and remember thinking how sad I would be someday when he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle. But you know what? When it came time to plan out that walk (and when we discovered that the aisle is not quite wide enough for both of my grandpas to walk me down) it actually felt right to walk down on my own. I was filled with joy as I looked straight ahead at my future husband, and side to side at the many friends and family members who have helped me grow throughout the years. My grandpas also stood at the end and helped walk me up the stairs to my groom. It was a beautiful moment, and I am so thankful that God filled my heart with happiness. I will cherish that moment forever!

  • Stephen

    Richard, you expressed the wedding in words that tell the story so well. Seeing my daughter wed with joy and love in her face – and the same in the face of her husband – so moving. She looked so much like her mother and I know Susan could see that. She is true to her middle name – Joy! God has blessed our families and we continue to praise him in all things. Romans 8:28. I love weddings!

  • http://lucythelabseattle.blogspot.com/ LucytheLab

    This is lovely – thank you for reminding us that joy & sorrow are mixed on this earth but our Father sees us through all…

  • http://lucythelabseattle.blogspot.com/ LucytheLab

    This is lovely – thank you for reminding us that joy & sorrow are mixed on this earth but our Father sees us through all…

  • http://twitter.com/mpwalker Mike W

    We just got back from our California trip last night (a 13 day vacation that included six days total on the road and not one single hitch happened!) Here I am catching up on some of the things I missed while offline and found myself shedding tears while reading this today. Thank you.

    Catching up with my favorite cousins, aunt, and uncle was such a blessing to me and my family. Michelle and I will be dreaming of the time we were able to spend with you and of all the joy that was felt by all during the whole wedding weekend.

  • http://twitter.com/jameybennett jamey w. bennett

    Your sister was a glorious treasure of a woman, and her children are a fine reflection of her glory. This is a wonderful tribute to her, and the legacy in Megan and the boys. Thank you for sharing such a moving reflection.

  • http://twitter.com/jameybennett jamey w. bennett

    Your sister was a glorious treasure of a woman, and her children are a fine reflection of her glory. This is a wonderful tribute to her, and the legacy in Megan and the boys. Thank you for sharing such a moving reflection.


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