By Rev. Dr. Brian Gigee
Death Valley. Not the one in California. Death Valley Not the one in Baton Rouge. Death Valley as in the part of our hearts and minds that comes alive this time of year just when we thought we’d put it all to rest. For decades pastors, priests, rabbis and therapists have called this time of year from the Thanksgiving holiday through Christmas and into the new year… Death Valley. It’s a condition not a place.
And it’s not fun. Really. Yet, if faith matters… then it’s a matter of faith how one maneuvers these days.
This time of the year is whet with feelings. We can’t rid ourselves of them and they are just that… feelings… not right or wrong but great reminders that we are alive and in the midst of that aliveness there is both joy and pain. Old wounds are opened, and people see the hurt on our faces even though we’ve not spoken a word. This time of the year can be treacherous… so take caution and use your faith ‘toolbox’ to tend to your heart and mind in healthy, faithful, spiritual ways.
It’s easy to feel abandoned this time of year! Death Valley will make you think that… being all alone and all… as abandonment goes way back in human history… it’s the feeling deep in our hearts that something has gone really wrong and needs tending to. Something we can’t control. Lost or loss… either one… we recognize it when it comes calling. Have you stepped back already to consider the times you have felt abandoned? Have you given thought to the moments where you have abandoned others? It’s a good exercise! I’ve got a list here to help… take a deep breath… it’s not very pretty… read at your own risk…
- The death of a grandparent—the one you loved and trusted the most;
- When parents with young children choose to divorce—there is a kind of ‘death’ all around;
- Or as a friend moves away, and you are present to see the moving van depart;
- And when one lands in jail and has no one to come to visit;
- When “the company” lets you go, and you loved your job;
- Not getting the job we really wanted with no other job prospect in site;
- When the last child goes off to college or enters the military and the house goes silent;
- When a woman is sexually assaulted, and she is made to think it was her fault;
- When one is targeted by false accusation or innuendo and no one steps up in defense;
- When you feel ignored by your church in moments of joy or sorrow;
- Or when you’ve ignored the church, you are part of or joined with great joy & hope;
- When a child or close friend dies due to an accident or sudden illness;
- When you strike out in the bottom of the 9th with men on base and down by 1 run;
- When drugs or alcohol sink into one’s soul and take over a relationship or family;
- When your doctor or dentist or plumber retires, and you just don’t like the new one;
- When the pet loved for so long is required to be put down;
- When one’s own health declines and is forced to move to an adult care facility losing that sense of independence;
- When we’ve turned our back on God, while trusting God will never do that to us…
I pray you all had as good a Thanksgiving time as possible and hope you will walk with kindness and joy into the coming year as Death Valley is only as real as we allow it to be…
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi. Comments and questions can be sent to [email protected].