The congregation of St Mary’s in Ann Arbor requests that we sit toward the middle of the pew so that stragglers can find a place to sit. Since I like the late comer area of the next to last pew in the back, I accomodate this wish. Just before the procession a mother came in with her daughter and a small bag and sat at the very end of the pew in front of me. I looked briefly at the missallette and when I looked up a ziplock bag of apples, one with goldfish, one with animal crackers, and a tiny brightly colored pouch, which later I got to see had candy canes were cascaded across the pew toward the center as well as a fuzzy big M key chain with no keys, a giraffe, a bear, and an elephant. Next came a few books as the mother quietly inventoried the items with the child who had 5 crayola markers in her hand. The seat also had a few pages of Dora stickers with a sticker book.
The mass was about the Holy Family. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face mostly. What that mom did, worked. That little girl, no more than 2, occassionally needed to comment or dropped a marker, but, for the most part, played quietly, accustomed to the routine.
As someone who never had to go to church growing up, but at the same time had a mom that thought of everything that I might be interested in, there are a lot of things about today’s service that made my heart soar. I thought about how God picked Mary, knowing she’d be faithful to the Jewish traditions and surround Jesus with His ways. How He knew she’d be flexible as he sent her into a sticky situation as an unwed mom.
I thought about how God supplies us with things that will keep us entertained in safe places until we are ready to focus on what He has for us. And how those same things that aren’t the tougher tests, still prepare us for what’s ahead. And how He knew me and how much I would love to sit near that mother and daughter, prompting me to be grateful for my own overprepared mom and for His abundant care.
Today I was watching a movie, and one of the characters had left corporate America and built up a resort that had been destroyed after the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia. It so happened that he was also running away from a failing marraige that took a hard hit after the couple lost a child.
Another character in the film plays Jesus who confronts him about why he left. He mentioned greed, and Jesus asks him which was bothering him, society’s or his own?
There are times in my life when I am bothered at work by my own jealousy or pride, like being envious of another’s talent or an over-eagerness to have mastery or knowledge about something beyond where I’m at – or what’s my business. But those are not the times I think about leaving it all to live as a missionary or go teach in a third world country. It’s always when the environment seems saturated with darkness, not the darkness within myself that I want to bolt.
I have the opportunity within the next few months to leave where I am and do something that would probably benefit my soul, be difficult, and advance His kingdom. I question though if I am doing that because of the darkness in me or because the darkness I perceive around me that I am supposed to be a light in. I’m sure there’s a little of both, but I can’t go if it’s more about the latter. I don’t yet know.
For Christmas of 2010, after reading a devotional story about giving God a Christmas present, I decided to go to Temple for a year. Within a month, I began to see the man I would marry. 10 months later, he died of cancer.
This year, I read “Let Yourself be Found”, from a CS Lewis advent devotional. He writes, “The avoiding, in many times and places, has proved so difficult that a very large part of the human race failed to achieve it. But in our own time and place it is extremely easy. Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health, and (above all) your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be better to stick to papers. You’ll find advertisments helpful, especially those with a sexy or snobbish appeal.”
This is the first time I have been able to stop avoiding things enough to want to give Him a gift again.
Here I will blog where He shows up in the silence, the solitude, and off the beaten track I pray to keep my feet on. It’s a birthday gift to Him. My prayer is keeps alive in our hearts both that anticipation of being found, and its assurance.