Farewell – with forward motion

After six years, this is my last column. It’s been a thrill and hugely validating. To communicate with a real live audience! To don the persona of “writer” and check out the fit! I’ve loved the challenge of wresting some coherence and conviction out of my own raw thinking about the Christian life. Not to mention being counted among a group of Reformed columnists I admire and respect.

So why give it up? Fair question. When I began, my husband was still working, but I was retired. I had solid chunks of free time. No one in my own family or extended family had issues that called for significant levels of intervention and involvement. But gradually that changed. People I love need more of me. Life’s topography has altered and deadlines don’t mesh well with the new landscape.

I hope to keep writing. I doubt I can stop. Words build up and want to spill out. So maybe I’ll still show up in CC occasionally. The profound value of the journalistic dialogue and creative work fostered here cannot be overstated – a holy, essential space for testing the spirits together. Catholic poet and essayist Dave Griffith recently deliberated on how such a quest for truth-finding unites writers and readers and functions as a pledge of fealty to an expansive compassionate vision:

As our new Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan would have it, “You gotta serve somebody.” And essaying, whether you think of yourself as religious or not, is a form of service, of discipleship, to an ancient and innately human compulsion to seek the truth wherever it may be found. For many of us – and here by “us” I need to expand beyond essayists to all manner of artists, to include our readers who labour in so many different ways to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families, and do so while shouldering the weight of grief, anxiety, self-doubt and addiction – when we come to the page, whether as writers or readers, we are searching for good news, for truth, for beauty that will restore to us some courage and dignity that will help us in turn to bring good news, truth and beauty to others in whatever way we are able (Image Journal).

Griffith’s picture of writers and readers passing restorative “good news” back and forth conforms to my experience as a columnist for CC. Together we serve Jesus. We read, write, attend our churches, volunteer in the community, come alongside a brother who’s lost his livelihood or support an aging parent and we do it all as Christ-light place holders in our own small corners, casting little shining pools of grace against the darkness.

A Resurrection propulsion
My writing dream was that you might see your faith in my life and I might see my faith in yours and that we might thus encourage one another to stand firm. Another noteworthy poet and essayist, Christian Wiman, endorses the fruitfulness of such sharing: “For anyone who feels their faith to be an unstable thing, the thing that stabilized it [for me was] to see it stable in someone else. To see credible faith enacted in another.” He goes on to affirm that our everyday Christian lives are consecrated in ways we might not always notice: “the eternal gets played out in our daily lives, in minute atomic ways.” So, thank you, readers. How honoured and grateful I am that you would read my “everyday Christian” musings on the enigmatic intersections of the eternal and the ordinary.

Over Christmas I joined the Bradenton CRC worship choir. One of our pieces, “The First Noel,” contained this directive to build to a grand conclusion – “with forward motion.” As I pondered the end of my column, I kept circling back to that phrase. The Semisonics’ pop song “Closing Time” reminds us, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” There’s an irresistible forward motion to the Christian life, a Resurrection propulsion that cannot be stanched. We who follow Jesus Christ are always heading “further up and further in.” Thus no sad farewell from me, but a cheery “fare well.” Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance (Jude 2).

  • Cathy Smith, former features editor and columnist for Christian Courier, is a retired Christian schoolteacher who lives in Wyoming, Ont.

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