Today was my last ever class at Richmont. Anytime I've said things about graduation to people outside my program, they seem to believe that it's a happy event, and cause for celebration. That's not what it feels like. It feels like grieving a loss that will never be fully grieved, because the hole it will leave is too big and too special to be filled by anything else. I have spent my life trying to learn how to love well. At Richmont, I learned how to BE loved well. I was pursued and valued here. I had a place and a role. I felt safe and comfortable. These three years, and especially this last year, have been difficult for so many of us. But Richmont has provided "emotional bubblewrap" (thanks for that language, Joel) for us in the moments that we have needed some small cushion from the pains and stresses of life. I have not only wept and rejoiced with my friends, but I have been wept with and rejoiced with. There has been depth and light, tears and laughter. There has been a lot of chocolate. There has been stress, anguish, turmoil, tragedy, trauma, and most of all, a holy and cursed waiting. We have played truth or truth (because none of us ever picked dares as kids), celebrated birthdays, sat in silence. We have worshipped together. We have done life together. We have done death together.
So forgive me if words of congratulations seem a bit incongruent with what I'm feeling at this point in my life. I'm sure there will be a day when I am excited and proud of the "accomplishment" of finishing Richmont and getting my master's degree. But today is not that day.
Today is the day that I cried (not pretty little tears, mind you, but the big ugly sobs) through the last five minutes of class. Today is the day that I thoughtfully and purposefully planned to wear my Wheaton t-shirt under my Richmont sweatshirt. I spent the day literally clothed in my past and my future, seated firmly in the present. And silly as it may have seemed, I paused in the foyer to take off my sweatshirt. I wanted to stay snuggled inside its warmth and cozy familiarity. It feels safe to wear a sweatshirt - the opposite of exposed. But yet, I knew that outside the doors, it was warm. The seasons had changed. It is spring now, and it is time to leave the comfort and coziness of this place behind. This season has ended, and it is time for us to move forward into our futures and the seasons that lie ahead of us.
There will be a time when I will be excited about the season coming next for me and the beautiful things that it holds. But not today. Today is about endings and goodbyes. It's about closing this time well and with honor for the weighty thing that it has been.
Forgive me for taking this out of context and using it in reference to an ending when its original context was in the death and grief of C.S. Lewis's beloved wife. I hope I will not do a dishonor to the weight of that story by using it as part of mine.
"Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal." ~ Shadowlands