Category Archives: family relationships

Body Fading, Essence Soaring, by Miriam Blank

KCGuestPostMiriamBlank300x300x72This morning, kneeling beside my mother on the deck, I was gripped by the fleeting treasure of her fragile resilient life.  The process of dying, I believe, is a holy space, just as is birth.

This morning, like every morning, I went over to ask her how her night was. Dad had her out on the deck surrounded by bird song and five flowering baskets from mother’s day.

She sat quietly, a little queen in her corner. I asked her how she slept and she got a mischievous smile. She had a dream, she said, that she was pregnant. She was a little worried that people might think, “Crazy old lady, what is she doing pregnant?”

But in her dream she was happy to be pregnant.  She said, “It was my baby.”

I thought of the days my mother was young. There is a photo of Mom at about 31, holding my oldest brother Nelson while pregnant with her next child.  No one can doubt how full of new life she is, standing quietly holding it all.

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Mary Lou Blank, mother of author Miriam, holding her first child and pregnant with her fourth in this photo taken during the Blank family’s missionary years in Mexico. Mary Lou went on to bear six children over nine years.

I told her, “Maybe it is a sign that even in this season of things breaking down, you are full of new life.”

We talked about how she is experiencing great joy, peace and love each day. She said she liked my interpretation of her dream; that it fit. Mom is more expressive of her love for everyone than she has ever been. She seems at relative peace with her losses in this season of endings. “Everyone has to die,” she has said, with a little smile.  She laughs often.  Her body so frail is spilling over with beauty.

I know others might not see it as I do, and I don’t always see it this way either. But I am bending over her being each day and am taking in each moment with new eyes, knowing more than ever that each day with her is a gift. Like parents who can’t stop talking about their little child, and can’t get over the miracle growing in their arms, I can’t get over her growing beauty.

Mary Lou, Lester, and Miriam Blank
Mary Lou and Lester Blank with author Miriam Blank

Others may see her listing to one side of the wheelchair, stuttering over a word, drooling, or looking distantly across the room and wonder at my delight in this season.  I don’t deny the sadness.  It is there, and I take my turn with tears. Her tiny body seems to be shriveling up and disappearing. She is so small now in her recliner; it seems to fold in and hide her away. She sleeps more, eats less, forgets more, and words are harder to say.

But as her body fades and fails, her essence soars. Her spirit flames. She shakes with the fullness of her life and the rich stories of love layered within.  She can’t get over the flowers and the blue sky. To her they are a new wonder every morning. She is full of new life. She is quietly holding it all.

–Miriam Blank, Gap, Pennsylvania, is a professional counselor, spiritual director, and certified life coach.  In the past Miriam worked 15 years as a registered nurse and certified nurse-midwife.

Water Spouts and More, by Renee Gehman Miller

KCGuestPost-ReneeMillerOf all the bedtime Bible stories, Jonas had picked the story of the healing of the lepers, so on a recent, unstable kind of day, I found myself reading:

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten men were very sick. They were so sick, the doctors couldn’t make them better. They were so sick they couldn’t be with their mommies or daddies or boys and girls.”

I didn’t think he noticed a waver in my voice, but after I finished the story and we were lying in the bed, he said, “Tell me the truth, Mommy.”

I panicked a little. He was likely just trying out a new phrase he’d heard me say, but I was nervous about what was to come when I asked, “Tell you the truth about what?”

“Umm. . . .” He took a moment to fish in his mind for something he wanted to know the truth about before saying, “Um, about the water spout.”

Now I was trying not to chuckle. Of course I had no idea of what possibly could’ve brought his thoughts to “the water spout” in this moment (no, it wasn’t in his story of the 10 lepers, nor had it rained that day), but here we were.

“Well,” I said, “The truth about the water spout is that it helps catch the rain that runs down the roof so that it can all flow right down one road to the ground.”

“Oh,” he said, satisfied. “Okay.”

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Thus were the pleasantries of bedtime held intact for the night, even as my thoughts lingered on the men who were so sick the doctors couldn’t seem to fix them.

Nine days before, I had received a phone call to come in for an impromptu appointment with the doctor, which is never good.

It was an appointment during which the doctor left at one point because she wanted to give me time to punch the wall if I so desired. Not because I appeared to want to, but because she was concerned about my stoicism in the face of her words and thought maybe I might find some needed cathartic relief if she left for a moment.

It was an appointment during which Anthony and I exchanged words in what ought to be considered a foreign tongue for 31-year-old people who are not certifiably insane. (Or are we?)

And just like that I was scheduled for a return to chemo, something I never thought I’d do. Lung surgery been planned for the prior Thursday was canceled, apparently not because anything changed about my lung nodules but more because of the general up-in-the-air-ness of my case.

There will be two new (to me) chemo drugs, a loathsome ten weekdays on, five weekdays off per cycle, four cycles (until right before Christmas, I think), then scans, then determine if more chemo is the way to go or not.

I have a sort of post-traumatic-stress type association with chemo. It takes up a lot of time that is precious, it destroys what’s healthy while maybe getting rid of the bad.  While I am very skeptical of its ability to do much (any) good for me, I will proceed simply because this is the door we are in a position to access at the moment. I’m not quite sure, though, how I will return to the third floor, sign in, sit in that chair, and say “yes” when they hold up that bag of poison and ask me to verify that I am the person whose name is printed on the label.

Right now if you looked at me, you’d probably have no idea anything is wrong with me. Starting chemo again feels like unveiling truths that may start to become as plain as with the water spout. The truth you can see when Mommy has to rest so much, and her hair is falling out (again), and she goes to the doctor’s almost every day, and she can’t be out in public, and her leg that hurts seems to be having such a big effect on the rest of her, too.

And I wish he could face the transition to a big-boy bed or to school before learning about cancer. I want to create a masterful façade out of it all like the father in the Italian movie, Life is Beautiful, who convinces his son that the concentration camp is all one big game for which they must wear uniforms and strive to win the most points by following the rules.

If we are going to talk about the truth, let’s please just talk water spouts.

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We have disciplined ourselves to live one day at a time these past couple of years and will continue on in this way, one uncertain step at a time in an ever-changing plan. We continue to look into options for treatment, and flew halfway across the country recently to begin that process. We learned of a possibility to pursue that comes with a bigger price tag and no guarantees or refunds, but it sure sounded better than our alternatives. We still have a couple places we’d like to check out, but in the meantime, we go to chemo.

In a time when all the doors seem either closed or opened to the wrong way, we knock on Jesus’ door and say, “Tell me the truth,” and that is the happy ending to this otherwise Eeyore-esque journal entry.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

The reality, for me, in light of these truths, is that even though we have had some really bad days recently, we are still finding that in our days there is joy, and hope, and faith, and a good deal of love.

—Renee Gehman Miller, writer and editor, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in 2013. Kingsview & Co readers who once subscribed to the blog’s prior incarnation, DreamSeeker Magazine, will remember Miller’s lively and creative contributions to DSM as former assistant editor and columnist. Her “Ink Aria” columns can still be searched for and read at DreamSeeker Magazine online. “Water Spouts” is adapted from one of the many eloquent CaringBridge posts through which she has shared her journey since 2013.

Through the Broken Glass

MAK-withFather-PostRevWhen this summer my denomination faced chaotic developments I was preparing to navigate as seminary dean, the idea came to change my Facebook profile photo. I wanted a reminder that though each generation faces the high calling of discerning how we live the Jesus Way in changing contexts, the wisdom of those who preceded us deserves honor.

A photo of me and my father drew me into a story with unexpected twists and turns and transformations:

A s touched on in “Present at the Big Bang,” I was taken to Cuba as a baby. I remember sitting in my crib listening to my parents talk in the kitchen about their missionary activities. I was so young I can’t confirm the memory’s reliability, yet what lingers is this thought: You are all alone in this crib, and you are going to need to take care of yourself.

At minimum what the memory points to is true: along with siblings and many other children of missionaries and church leaders, I wondered where I fit in my parents’ priorities versus God and their callings.

They did love their children. And I’m grateful that in later years, when my wife Joan and I sought their counsel at several traumatic junctures, they wrapped us in tender wisdom.

Still that image of boy in crib lingered as I turned to the photo. It’s probably 1957, the year I turned three. We’re in an office my father built. He’s conferring with a Cuban acquaintance.

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That was what I remembered of the photo. Then I moved it from my seminary office shelf to my desk to snap a picture with my phone. And the story deepened as details leaped out and surprises unfolded.

First, like never before it occurred to me the photo must have been taken soon after my father Aaron lost his father to depression in 1956. As I wondered if I could glimpse the grief, I saw memories of aloneness in a new light.

My parents had to navigate a new culture. Emerging from plain-dressing 1950s Mennonites, they had to discern in Cuban context faithful expressions of the gospel, such as through the tie my dad back then wore only in Cuba. In April 1957, I watched bodies of Castro’s rebels being dragged down our street. Rebels stopped my father’s jeep at gunpoint as he drove my mom and just-born brother Robbie home.

Throw into all this losing a parent to suicide—then considered such a mortal sin that cause of death was shrouded in secrecy and shame, bodies sometimes disallowed burial in the congregational cemetery. Suddenly my dad looked less a distant father and more a hero who had managed against all odds to care for me.

A memory surged of his inviting me to paint the wooden siding of that office as high up as I could reach. I remembered with fresh appreciation the sheer joy of brushing on the gray paint and learning, in that magical way, to be my father’s son.

I shared glimpses of this on Facebook while updating my profile picture. To my surprise, love rushed across the years from Cuba to Miami and up the Internet to culminate in a Facebook comment shared in Spanish by an older woman. She was who had sometimes played in our sandbox with me while her mother babysat my siblings.

Right there on Facebook she poured out her love for me, my parents, other missionaries. These aren’t simple matters, it seems, these questions of how parents should prioritize and love their children. Because the very activities that had sometimes shifted my parents’ focus from their children had generated this love now flowing as if from beyond the grave to offer back to that boy the embrace of parents who have been dead almost five years.

But there was more. Also commenting was Barbara Shisler, wise, eloquent pastor and poet. Barbara said, “Love your little hand so safely on his leg.” My response: “Thanks, Barbara. A gift of taking a photo of the photo for Facebook was that I don’t recall ever realizing that detail was there before. It tugs at my heart.”

Tug it has. For almost 60 years that photo has been floating around, yet not until June did I truly see where that hand was. Mystery remains. Why am I there while my father works? Is this a great privilege? Am I taking any opportunity I can to connect? Still as I gaze through Barbara’s eyes at that hand on my father’s leg, I feel safe.

Just this yet. The photo had migrated to my seminary office when Joan framed it as a gift. But one day my knocking it to the floor shattered the glass. When I took a phone picture of the photo I picked the shards off—then piled them back. I couldn’t quite let go of the broken glass as symbol of boyhood’s broken parts.

Then before a seminary convocation presentation at which I planned to mention the photo,  a seminary colleague and convocation planner came in to discuss convocation. I turned to show him the photo lying under broken glass. But it was straight up, glass gone. One of my EMU custodian colleagues must have cleaned and straightened it. Whoever it was helped me recognize it was time to see past the shards to the photo and life beyond. I’m grateful.

Michael A. King is dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and vice-president, Eastern Mennonite University; blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. This post has roots in a June 2015 Facebook post and an August 2015 EMU faculty and staff conference storytelling session.

Hope as Church Unravels? Part 6: Present at the Big Bang

MHKC2015postMy granddaughter has been holding me spellbound as she alerts me that even the faintest gusts of love or laughter, of dismissal or devaluation, have amazing power to form or deform. She teaches me that even as so much unravels, any of us open to it are participating in the miracle of becoming ourselves as persons made in the image of God.

Here then, drawing on this week’s Eastern Mennonite Seminary convocation presentation, is the sixth and final post in the six-part series introduced in “Hope as Church Unravels? Part 1, The Unraveling” on a.) ways the church, denominations, concepts and patterns of ministry, theological training are unraveling and b.) how we might work at weaving and reweaving. Here I want to ask how, in deep and primal ways, our lives in community with each other form us, weave and reweave us, individually and jointly, as the selves God invites us to be.

Present at the Big Bang

On November 6, 2013, I dreamed of an impish little girl. I’d been gathering trash in a leaf bag. I knew it wasn’t sanitary, but I thought it wouldn’t kill her when we both seemed drawn to putting her in the bag, closing it around her shoulders, and playfully carrying her around. Although she couldn’t talk yet, in the dream I sensed her interests and thought Well, her parents won’t be too excited but probably won’t catch us. We had a high old time. As I pondered the clues—aging me, baby too little to talk, parents to be outwitted, so much giggling to be done—this, I concluded, was my granddaughter.

I reported the dream to my daughter, who was celebrating that an ultrasound had allowed her to see the heartbeat even of her blueberry-sized embryo, whom she too thought was a girl. My daughter welcomed any more dreams and commented that “This one was magical, even if you were putting my daughter in an unsanitary situation.”

Seven months later the blueberry was born. I had carried her mischievous magic in my heart with both a smile and a sense of kinship with gospel writer Luke’s report (2:19) that after Jesus’ birth, mother Mary pondered these things in her heart. As my granddaughter seemed, eerily and wonderfully, precisely the girl I had already met, I was reminded also of Jeremiah. The Lord says of him (1:5), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, / and before you were born I consecrated you. . . .”

My grandparental gaze had already been trained by my first grandchild, about whom I had also had a primal dream: Grandson and Grandpa crossing a sand dune above a mystic ocean. I had learned that one grandparenting gift is to cherish grandchildren from above the action.

I dearly loved my own baby daughters. I’ll never forget when the mischievous mother of my mischievous granddaughter played the song “Baby Beluga” 50 times while supposed to be asleep before cheerfully reporting, “I done with nap now, Daddy.” But amid many treasured memories, when I try to remember details I often see a crazed blur of daughters and parents trying to figure out how to get enough sleep or milk or fun but not the too-much fun of keys in outlets or cars dodged in a street crossed at the wrong time.

For a grandparent, the blur slows, like reliving a marvelous baseball play in slow motion. As I’ve experienced this with a granddaughter I felt bonded with from blueberry on, watching her grow has seemed like gazing, spellbound, as God hovers over what is formless and void before with a Big Bang calling forth light and sky and ocean and all living beings.

What I’m awed to glimpse, and it’s awe before the holy, is a person in the very act of being formed, formed through relationships with others, self, and ultimately God. As we laugh and tease each other and read books and put paper bags over our heads and laugh some more, minute by minute I learn her rhythms and loves and dislikes and longings and she mine.

So when I enter the room I know to expect large eyes waiting to see who it is. Then the “It’s Grandpa!” smile appears. Grandpa goes bonkers. A shy head leans into her mom’s shoulder. Patience required. At what she deems just the right moment her arms stretch out to melt my heart.

Theories about what’s happening here are valuable. The stories told, often in their conflicting ways, by Freud, Jung, Mead, Mandell, Piaget, Erickson, Bowen, Bowlby, and more have influenced my grandparent’s gaze. What generates my deepest awe, however, is that sense of observing a human emerge in real time.

Seeing just how powerful even tiny grandparent/grandchild interactions can be also underscores that things will go wrong. Sometimes it’s just an accident, the fingertip graze of a baby’s eye that turns giggles into outraged sobs. Other times the delicate dance of human formation is profoundly violated.

Watching the intricacies shaping my granddaughter second by second, I think of what I know of my own infancy. The story of my missionary parents taking me at three months on a ship from Miami to Havana and my being the only one not throwing up on heaving decks. The photo of my mother hanging laundry on the roof of the first Cuban house we lived in, where she said I cried almost constantly. Sitting in my crib while in the kitchen, on the other side of the thin wooden wall, my parents wrestled with their missionary work—and thinking, though I can’t be sure such an early memory is reliable, You are all alone in this crib; you’ll need to take care of yourself.

Or go back a generation. In her final weeks, my mom, even with a mind strokes and Parkinsons had frayed, still ached to make sense of her relationship with her own mom. She showed me written fragments she had labored over in which she wrestled with loving a mother who, emotionally distant, had largely had another woman raise her.

In his last days, my dad sought to heal wounds going back to those Cuba days. When I was two, his depressed father checked himself out of treatment and ended his life. A photo in my seminary office shows me and my dad in his Cuba office soon after his dad’s death. Am I imagining that his face looks haunted? What’s going on in him? In me?

One day I accidentally brushed the photo to the floor. The frame’s glass shattered. The shards spoke to me of how easily during becoming ourselves we fall and break.

They hint at the Genesis 3 account of Adam and Eve evicted from their primeval garden, their return barred by an angel’s flaming sword. We aren’t shaped only within a flow of innocent love, laughter, play. We’re also born into shattered glass going back to the dawn of time.

Even a dream of mischievous girl holds dangers. How in seeking what I dreamed do I deform as well as form? When am I twisting her into my rather than God’s image? How did my imperfect love for my own daughters help shape both their best and broken selves even as how my parents loved me, in turn shaped by how their parents loved them, both tore and treasured the person I was to become?

We all face such questions, whether grandparents, grandchildren, parents, the children each of us once were, or participants in this seminary community or any formational setting. Here we learn to minister and be ministered to. We invite each other into sacred spaces. This includes not least the core of who we are, how we became who we are, who we’re yet to become. This can mean going down, down, down into the layers of our selves and stories, our laughters and joys, our traumas and tears.

It also means gazing out—out across the large social, environmental, climatological, and global forces shaping our most intimate beings. To see, for example, how sensitive a grandchild is to a minute shift in gaze or voice is to grasp that the merest external breeze can twist our formation.. Even the slightest gusts of violence actual or threatened, of abuse, of racism, of marginalization by poverty, sickness, low-status occupations, having our identity viewed as abomination, can distort your and my ability to embrace that great gift—being formed in the very image of God.

In seminary, university, church, or other communities informed by faith understandings, we’re invited to wrestle with how to understand, confront, and transform the forces that twist us. We’re called to root ourselves in that amazing inaugural dream of Jesus. Grasping matters at levels more profound than we ever will, he launched his ministry with a vision of what it would take to re-form his followers, to gather their shards of glass back into panes through which the holy could shine into their very cores. As Jesus put it in Luke 4:18-19,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Here we are—in shards. Here we also are—able to exchange with each other something like a grandparent’s gaze through which to see and treasure in midstream that Big Bang of creation—our becoming the persons we’re meant to be.

This is why some of the most amazing moments in seminary life are the stories seniors tell in graduates’ brunch of arriving lost and departing found. This is why one of the most awe-inspiring things any of us can do is to participate in the miracle of becoming ourselves.

Though not speaking here officially on behalf of EMS, Michael A. King is dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. This post has roots in a September 1, 2015, EMS convocation presentation.

Spellbound

ShMHKC2015poste was spellbound. As I watched her, the spell stretched over to bind and bless me too.

We were flying away from a week that had included hurt and sorrow for many. Our denominational convention in seeking to strengthen the ties that bind us in Christian love had sometimes achieved this but also sometimes torn the threads.

Soon enough she’ll need to be finding her own path through all the ways we wound each other. In fact, because she was born into this flow of pain going back to the very beginning, back to the angel with the flaming sword barring the return to Eden, she too is already wounded. All of us who care for her are already in ways known and unknown shaping her not only through our love but also through the frailties our own births into the brokenness have formed in us.

But right then she was spellbound. I imagine she couldn’t even grasp the concept of flight; I doubt she understood that she was in a vast airborne bus and that what she was seeing was thousands of feet below her. Yet as the plane descended, quickly now, toward the runway, the houses and trees and cars were turned golden by the setting sun and at the same time the lights of approaching night began to flick on all across the landscape. She can’t talk yet so I don’t know precisely how her brain was relaying the magic to her. Yet the wonder of it did seem to have caught her attention.

In turn, she caught my attention, this dear granddaughter reminding me that there are more primal ways to experience the world than my grizzled, aging self, too caught up in life’s complexities to see much more than the burdens, often manages. And witnessing her spell then opening myself to it did envelop me in grace.

My granddaughter’s spell took me back to those first days of creation, when God hovered over the face of the chaos, over all that was formless and void, and spoke into being light and dark, mountains and valleys, dry land and heaving seas, trees and flowers, amazing animals, cool bugs and irritating but needed critters, birds singing and getting their early worms (or hopping around Amtrak’s 30th Street Station gobbling noodles, as happened on Sunday), women and men and children in all their endless varieties. I remembered that God looked upon all this and marveled at how good it was.

I saw that my granddaughter, though lacking the words or concepts to explain it, was present to it. In her wordless way, she was treasuring it. Even amid the grief and pain that was still much with me and will long be with us, gratefully I joined her in the worship.

—Michael A. King is blogger and editor, Kingsview & Co; dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; and owner, Cascadia Publishing House LLC

Launching Kingsview & Co

BarnFullPaintingOpen200x200x72Blogs on Kingsview & Co, which is an extension of DreamSeeker Magazine, are from main blogger Michael A. King combined with intermittent guest posts.

Below is the most recent prior Kingsview post, released in DreamSeeker Magazine 2012 at Kingsview Autumn 2012, and functioning here as the first post of Kingsview & Co.

Families:
Where Torment and Transcendence Mix

Michael A. King

The death of both my parents amid journeying with various friends and colleagues through complex family dynamics has made me want to zoom out to bigger-picture reflections. What keeps coming to me is this: Families are where we primally and intimately experience torment and transcendence.

I hasten to recognize that torment probably isn’t how those blessed with sunnier family experience would put it. And transcendence may not compute for those who have known primarily ways families maim.

So let me simply report why I think of both torment and transcendence.

Torment because I’ve seen so much of it in family layers going back generations. And in communities, often church-related, I regularly participate in. The torment can range across mental illness; the pain such illness inflicts on sufferers and those who love them; suicide; amid inability to navigate inherited shadows passing them on to others; divorce and its trauma for those separating as well as children, relatives, friends. I know a family in which attempts of children to grow up lead to being literally disowned; there is torment here for those disowned even as surely the acts of disowning flow from their own prior wells of anguish.

I could go on—and on—but my point isn’t to belabor the torment. I simply want to name it plus offer the severe mercy of acknowledging that the torment is not rectified by being Christian but accompanies us as Christians. No example I’ve offered flows from non-Christian family life. I don’t blame Christianity—but those of us in Christian families can empower shadows through believing there must be something non-Christian about them, hence we may take our church selves to church, sequester our family hurts at home, and in so doing often deepen rather than heal them.

I’ve seen this dynamic in relation to suicide and its frequent companion, depression. Many of us were formed within an understanding that suicide was sin and depression a sign of spiritual failure. Suicide has been viewed as so grievous we can even tell of suicidal loved ones whose bodies congregations wouldn’t allow in cemetaries. Seeing association with depression or suicide as shameful has made us reluctant to talk about such matters, to make them part of our church lives or faith journeys, to trust that rather than God’s judgment added to the depressive’s or the suicide’s torment, grace even here, and maybe especially here, can sorrowfully and tenderly abound.

And maybe that takes us to the cusp of transcendence. Because when families are able, imperfectly though truly, to confront their torments, they can become zones of amazing grace.
Not cheap grace. Any family who has walked through the worst of the worst knows grace is costly, bought by tears, sleepless nights of reliving nightmares, choices to grow even when one’s family soil seems too shallow to offer nurture, turning to mentors and therapists and friends and sometimes our own family members with readiness to keep loving even when it hurts like we imagine hell itself to hurt.

Recently a friend I’m in touch with only on Facebook, but with whom I share roots going back to our growing up together as children of missionaries, posted that a giant of our missionary youths had entered hospice care. This stirred us to share memories.

My friend remarked of the dying missionary and his wife that they “were probably the first people I met—as a young child—that were very very much in love and full of creative, imaginative energy. I’ll never forget them running across a field, hand in hand. I was very young and there is no photograph of that moment, but it is engraved in my mind.”

Chills. Tears. That is a picture of transcendence. Family can carry us beyond our worst to miracles larger than we achieve in isolation. Hand in hand across a field. So classic a film-like image as to be almost a cliché but in the best sense of cliché—though we risk cheapening it by repetition, the reason we’re thus tempted is that it’s so primally and powerfully true.
I think of the day a dying mother, amid a family’s shadows, embraced a child. And in that embrace said to one who was long an adult yet also a child tremulous still, “I love you as you are.” Transcendence.

Again I could go on. Because could we with ink the ocean fill, we wouldn’t exhaust the love, of God or for each other, that allows us to turn scripts of even family torment into narratives of transcendence.

Michael A. King, Telford, Pennsylvania and Harrisonburg, Virginia, is Dean, Eastern Mennonite Seminary; and publisher, Cascadia Publishing House LLC. This column was first published in The Mennonite (Oct. 2011).