at my front door, this afternoon

Did he fail?

That was the question my father asked me to reflect upon as I stood to receive an honor on his behalf from his academic colleagues.  Life review can be brutal, but isn’t this question, publicly undressed, going a little too far?

No, he answered calmly.  You know how I’ve tried all my life to create a more thoughtful, just, inclusive, compassionate, civically-engaged church.  I’m wondering:  did I fail?  Was I throwing all my energy at a brick wall?

I thought about the vision of community that lit his young imagination and how he gave himself over to it, even as he descended into the reality of church politics, even as a counter force rose up to fight him in a zealous campaign to down-size the mind and heart.  Things got messy. He weathered disappointments, take-overs, losses, the wreckage of a denomination.  At mid-life, he looked around at the  structures that he had loved and nurtured and saw that they were dead to him.  He had lost. His work, yes; it had failed.

He didn’t turn bitter; here’s the thing.  He didn’t blame, didn’t fold up his tent.  He stood like a lightening rod, holding the vision with which he started in one hand, and the debris of his dream in the other.  He lived in that tension with such a creative heart that now, twenty five years later, green life is breaking out from the center that he held.  It’s the people that he loved that are greening – his grandchildren passionate for justice, loyal in their love.  His daughter-in-law taking up her deepest calling in the middle of her life.  His students carving out a new community, even wider than before in it’s arm’s reach, it’s fingers on the edge.  Even as his limbs, like old branches, curve to the ground;   life reaches up through him.  It unfurls.  A whole community, a diaspora, feeds on his deep roots.

Did he fail?  Or do we all, in failing and falling, find each other, and, finally, grow into the life that is meant for us all along?  I am betting on that.  My failures are many and great, as is, still, my hope.  I will hold them both close to me, as creatively as I can.  One day, perhaps I will look down and wonder at what new green thing, without my knowing, has up and flourished from this humble, broken ground.  One day, that is, when all my losses and loves succeed in making me  who I really am.


~ by Susan on 06/01/2010.

3 Responses to “as.losing.succeeds.”

  1. Susan, I have tears in my eyes and heart as I read this. Just got off the phone with your dear parents, who told me of your blog. One of the things I had told your Dad was how greatly he had impacted my life since childhood. My parents spoke of him and your mother with great fondness and admiration, and as I grew older, I was so blessed to be able to know them on a personal level. Your father’s character, leadership, and words, implanted in my life decades ago, opened my heart and mind to grow into a greater love for others, and a readiness to confront injustice toward any. He did not fail in giving us a vision of hope. He did not fail in emboldening us with courage to face the storms which have challenged our faith. What a remarkable man. Thanks so much for this blog.

  2. What is the date and tile of the blog you did concerning Dr.Hull’s current book dealing with barriers. Thanks.

    • Dear Jack,

      The post I think you are referring to is called Abolishing, Leveling, Strongholds;and it was posted on 3-11-10. You can find it in the March archives on the sidebar, or under ‘Susan’, which lists all of those pieces I have written.
      Hope this helps.

      Susan Hull Walker

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