Like Dark Chocolate, Bittersweet

You either like dark chocolate or you don’t. People who favor milk chocolate like its creamy sweetness. People who favor dark chocolate like sweets that bite back. I like both, but I find that a little dark chocolate goes a long way.

That’s what cleaning out my office has been like. The bite snuck up on me Wednesday, while I was putting stuff in boxes. I didn’t feel sad in my brain, because I was busy thinking about all the stuff I had to do for both new church business and my personal life. But my body knew what my brain did not, and my eyes were suddenly full of tears while my brain was busy protesting, “Wait a minute, I’m not sad!” I can recognize grief when it comes. Strange things trigger it: smells especially have a weird way of zapping straight into your limbic system and making you remember things you thought you had forgotten, evoking strong emotions you didn’t know you had. Textures, too, perhaps because they are so physical, can make us react physically. In this case it was the concrete physicality of the things in my drawer: a tin of beeswax, a roll of duct tape, a green Sharpie marker, some scattered paperclips. I have no emotional attachment to them, but they are familiar, and my fingers brush them every time I open my drawer.

It is strange, turning away from a familiar life to a life whose contours and rhythms I do not yet know. It’s not so much what needs to be done but how, and where, and the companions I’ll have along the way. It has always been so easy to go down the hall to find one of my awesome colleagues and just chat for a bit when I needed some advice or to talk through an idea, or just for some social interaction because I was lonely. Leaving that behind is hard. Change is hard.

But I also have the excitement and anticipation of what’s coming next, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that Trinity has given me over the last six years. I try to count my blessings but they are too many, so all I can do is gesture feebly at them and hope people get the right idea.

The whole Hebrew Bible is full of stories of leaving and arriving, of joyful and heartbreaking departures: Abe and Sarah leaving Ur for the Promised Land, or the people of Jerusalem being led away in exile. We don’t get a lot of details about their goodbyes, but we do know that the story of faith is one of meetings and departures, of setting out as well as homecoming.

This part is bittersweet, like dark chocolate. I hope that soon I can wash it down with a cold glass of milk.