“Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”

| August 12th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

Several years ago, when I began contemplating what would “make my heart sing,” in the words of the National Clergy Renewal Program’s sabbatical application, I thought of but one way to begin a sabbatical summer of renewal: a long, slow exhale on the shores of Maui. Josh and I had honeymooned a dozen years earlier in Costa Rica, so returning to a tropical island with all its native fruits and local culture and history and hospitality was just the way I imagined a summer filled with experiences out of the ordinary rhythms of my life. I’d never traveled to Hawaii, but had long been intrigued by stories passed down in my family’s history of a sabbatical my Granddaddy Bill once had there with his family (including my dad) along for the ride.

Maui was even more special than I could have dreamed, and Josh and I had just the best time all over the island in the 8 days we spent there. Yet precisely as we were flying across the country to Maui to begin an unforgettable summer, a gunman stole the lives of 21 students and teachers in Uvalde, Texas and left a nation filled with righteous rage. I wrote this last year about the odd intersection of utter terror and pure delight:

These have been odd, hard days to be away from our kids and community, days of such profound heartbreak that initially made our time of rest in Hawaii seem so distant in body and in spirit from the ache we’ve all felt. Yet this place and her beautiful people have taught me about delight. Delight, whose siblings are Wonder and Joy and whose cousins are Gratitude and Hope, holds — if but for a moment! — the fullness of life in the present with a playful appreciation for what we find there. And in that intersection between where we are and how we feel, delight leaves a mark upon us for the moments to come. 

Again at that intersection, I trust delight, wonder, joy, gratitude, and hope to carry our Hawaiian neighbors through the bottomless grief and trauma they’ve faced in West Maui this week. And again, I’m reminded of the complexities of this life, where, in the words of Kate Bowler, “Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.” Beautiful and hard, like wildfires that ravage paradise or melting glaciers and warming waters warning us even still. Beautiful and hard, like the tragic death of a 39 year-old husband, father, and friend, or the pain that makes moving through each day an exercise in all that is excruciating, or the bruise on one’s soul caused by work that strips hope away. Beautiful and hard, like a child who leaves and is welcomed home again, like a divine struggle through the night which leaves one limping forevermore, like a group of the faithful shuffling in grief towards the tomb “early in the morning, while it was still dark.”

Beautiful and hard, yes, but all held within the fullness of the One who never lets us go. 

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily