The days seem heavy lately, and it’s not just the tides or the seasons.
If you turn on CNN at anytime and read the banner that scrolls across the bottom of the page, you’ll see more than you can take in: more dead in Juarez, a cholera outbreak in Haiti, Gulf clean-up efforts, an Indonesian tsunami, and then, the most ancient of sorrows, young people and the civilian dead in wars overseas. As if this isn’t enough, bad news continues nationally over the housing and job markets. It’s as if the world is stuck in a collective bad dream and no matter how we flounder, we can’t wake up. We keep hoping that it might not be that bad, and then we discover that it is.
It would be nice if life were like high-school math books and you could turn to the back and get the answers to half the questions at least, but no, Jesus says crazy things like ‘trust me’ or ‘follow me’, things you could appreciate if he’d only put a little context around it. And so, because our collective milieu is both utter darkness and hazy hope, because life is that bad and because grace is that quirky, we decide the best plan is just to hold hands and watch for beauty. And so, we pray. Prayer doesn’t seem like that much sometimes but if we say everything belongs to God, then we have to mean that everything includes prayer, and that’s kingdom stuff.
We pray. We pray for all those people who have real hearts and loved ones who are, as numbers scrolled across the screen, everywhere. We pray for all the people who show up at church’s food shelf. (It’s only since I’ve worked in the church that I’ve heard “we can’t pay you” and so I understand the fear in your solar plexus when all you have to feed your kids is toast and you can’t pay your mortgage.) We pray for all the people we love who have cancer and who come to communion and cup, their hands with their wounded skin and red eyes. We pray for all the things that scare us, that are shriveled inside our soul, the places in us that have been weaned away from the kingdom, and we pray that all really will be well. Yes, as Julian of Norwich writes, and all shall be well.
So when the pinball machine of my head starts to worry too much, I’ll do what others have done. Others who have gone before me, who are wiser than myself, who have known sorrow and seen grace, and continue to pray. Because though we live under the shadow of death at all times, we also live in the kingdom. Because of Christ and through his cross and resurrection, this life, all life, has already been redeemed. The promise is that both death and life have already been raised with him. And so we follow and we huddle and we pray. We dig in the dirt and we throw down a handful of mustard seeds. We, short-sighted and so limited, confess horizons that are hopelessly yellow.