I find myself amazed that this is the last of my weekly reflections to share with you. Shall I write some “last” words before I retire to a new chapter of my life in Virginia? I leave part of myself here with and carry so many of you with me as I leave, since our relationships have bettered me, growing my mind, deepening my heart and soul. We have changed and blessed each other.
As I look back over a year’s worth of reflections—and I can do this because Jane Wellford graciously had them bound into a book for me—turning the pages, I notice several patterns and themes that wrote themselves into my reflections over and over. Two in particular.
The distinction between holy and ordinary is rather overrated. Some people think of what they do in a religious site as holy, and everything else as ordinary. But over the course of the year, we have seen that so much ordinary is also holy: friendship, rain, changing seasons, caring, human beings, even time itself. I know that everything is holy when the eyes and heart perceive a gift there, a wonder, a lesson. If the Creator’s handprints are in the world, or if God is in and with her children, then the whole world is holy too. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote
“Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
I, for one, want to go through life with my shoes off, seeing God in it all, experiencing the wonder of a world ablaze with holiness and beauty, calling me to my knees in gratitude.
I have, also, hoped and prayed that you would be blessed in these writings because you matter to me, because I love you. I recognize that this is a bit of a dangerous and even presumptuous claim, in an academic community where we are careful with our language. But praying for you regularly, by name, department, face, has caused me to care and respect you, has caused me to want the best for you.
Elon is the happiest academic community I have ever joined. And though we have our moments, our struggles, and conflicts, we see that each of us is uniquely valuable, significant to all the rest of us and our common life and goals. We want for all of us equity and justice, access and success, respect and belonging. This is the picture of love at work in us.
So beloved friends, colleagues, students, families: keep looking beneath the surface of things for holy signs, keep joining hearts and shoulders together for the common good, serving each other with joy and (mostly) good humor. May the presence of holiness all around us bring us to love and bless each other.
I want you to know that I will miss this holy and loving community, as I have been most blessed to serve, bless, and lead. I will always be grateful for you. May love always prevail in and for us, and may our work prove holy.
The Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller is University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement and can be reached at email@example.com