Advent is the season of waiting for the gift to come. Advent moves into the season of Christmas, which ends at Epiphany, when the Magi—possibly Zoroastrians—famously gave gifts to the infant Jesus.
The other day I hosted a diverse group of women from church: some single, some widowed, some married with kids, some married without kids, some in their 20s and some in their 80s. While sharing our joys and our struggles, we each honoured the unique life stories around the room and created a space for all to feel cared for and valued.
Like many women I know, my mother carries a deeply ingrained impulse to feed others. Once I watched her tend Penguin, her black and white tuxedo cat, clucking and fussing as she prepared and set food before him. To my eyes, the hefty Penguin was doing just fine, and the fuss seemed to be unnecessary. Who knows though?
Photo by Brandi Friesen Thorpe
Once again, we have lived through a moment that will continue to define our century. The wake of the triad of terror that has happened in the last days in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad will create rhetoric similar to 9/11, the attacks in New York and Washington. Our mindsets and attitudes will bend, our politics and apologies will twist, all to address this day.
I wrote this story two years ago, and since then another suicide has occurred and been mourned, in a neighbouring community. That man I did know. To remember both of these men who left behind wives, children, even grandchildren, today I publish it. Let’s learn how to handle mental illness in the church in a way that embraces rather than isolates.
It is with a heavy heart that I write today, and even now I debated sharing this. I do so because I believe that the story I am about to share is one with a lesson that we, the Mennonite church, need to learn.
As I write this I am flying over the ocean, returning from an international ecumenical gathering in the north of Italy. People from across the world were there, including some from countries I had never met people from. Places like Myanmar. Places like Senegal. And places like Germany, Italy, U.S.A, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Iraq, Chile, Sweden, China, India, Lebanon, Korea, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Russia, Nepal, and so many more.