If I were designing a calendar that worked perfectly for my usual state of mind here in the waning of the year, I'd give myself permission to focus on ending and death in November. And then I'd shift focus in December to say, Yes, the darkness is immense, but the Light is coming back. Is it weird to say that I am feeling mothered by the church's calendar this year? It says to me, Go ahead, Jamie, acknowledge the nature of November, and then get ready for better things once the calendar page turns to December. I don't have it in me right now to decorate a Christmas tree. But it's not Christmas, so I don't have to! I have pulled out the Advent things from their basement tub and I am shifting toward hopeful anticipation. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him! (It is perhaps a little odd to quote Martin Luther in a post singing the praises of the Catholic liturgical calendar.)
I am also thinking about the gift of right judgment. I am going to be judging up A STORM in the next two weeks. (This is me resolving to finish the letters of recommendation by the end of finals week. Two weeks, not three.) There are more grant applications, more job applications, a BOATLOAD of student work, and then the inundation of letters of recommendation. They'll be hard tasks, all of them. When I was younger I thought it would be nice to be the teacher doing the grading, or the judge sitting in the seat of authority. I didn't see what difficult work it would be. Sometimes I can see good intentions in the middle of sloppy student work, and I wrestle with how, exactly, to respond -- to honor the good intentions while also being clear about my standards. Sometimes I am asked to write a letter for a student who is a particularly mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses, and it can be agonizing to attempt to depict her fairly.
I think it's the first letter of Peter that describes Jesus as "the one who judges justly," and it occurred to me that tackling these tasks with kindness and consistency is a way of imitating Christ. I am grateful for his example, and for the unfailing grace he bestows on me to finish the work to which I am called.
(And now I am going to throw up this post without editing it and squeeze in a quick workout. I am behind in the roommate fitness challenge, but I'm not giving up quite yet. GLORY awaits me, I am sure.)