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.