I admit to being something of a sucker for a good metaphor. So there is symmetry to my year ending in a ten-day battle with a kidney stone. I recalled a December 31st "Bloom County" comic strip with Binkley and Opus toasting, "here's to a real kidney stone of a year."
2011 began with a divorce in our family. No need to share the details, but even when ending a relationship is the best choice, it is painful and worry and sleeplessness keep scratching at the door.
My mother-in-law had a fall, fracturing two vertebrae. Later in the year, my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. And then there were the two Jims. One was the best man at our wedding nearly 31 years ago. Jim died suddenly of a heart attack early last summer. The other Jim is a colleague who just celebrated his retirement. He continues to be missing since leaving his Sedona home in October to go hiking.
My son, a 22 year-old living with Autism aged out of high school. It was a great celebration and he thoroughly enjoyed commencement at Mountain Pointe, but it also means major changes for him, and as the diagnosis implies, change is not one of his best things. I have friends who have lost homes and jobs or are working well below their skills or servicing three job descriptions to try and stay afloat
In his 1977 film, "Annie Hall," Woody Allen tells the joke about a man who goes into a psychiatrist's office complaining that his brother thinks he is a chicken. When asked why they haven't put the man in a hospital, he answers, "We would, but we need the eggs."
Perhaps that describes the nature of hope. It isn't logical; sometimes it doesn't even seem rational. But we go on. Driven by something that seems to be beyond us, we press through the hard places in life for no more clear a reason than that we all need the eggs. Spirituality is a part of it. Whatever name they use for the divine, many push through the hard places driven by what the Celts called the thin places; those places, physical or spiritual, where the wall between us and the sacred seems very thin.
For some it is connection to a community that keeps them going; a community that provides support in physical, spiritual and emotional ways; a community that provides the eggs. And when it seems to be darkest, there is no substitute for even a glimmer of light provided by a compassionate group.
It was touch and go there for a while, but some good doctors got me back on my feet for Christmas Eve services. I did not lead the community this year, the community held me up. I heard six kids I have known since they were little children sing so sweetly my eyes filled. On New Year's Eve, I presided at the wedding of a beautiful young woman I have known for more than half her life. She and her beloved have the audacity to press forward in a world of uncertainty. My wife and I are privileged to live near my in-laws and help out where we can. In February, we will hold our first grandchild.
Hope makes no sense at all. But we all need the eggs.
• Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.