I walked into church, and found an earwig in the holy water. It was a picture of how I felt today; a skittering, slimy creature swimming in the midst of all that’s holy and spoiling it for everyone else. It’s been a rough couple of days (and months and years), and it’s sometimes hard for me to get to a place where I can minister to the good people of my church community by leading them in song. Early on Sunday morning, I almost never want to go, and yet I’m always glad when I’m there and I’m positively lifted up as I leave. Today was another of those days.
After a season of deep water, I find myself somewhat paralyzed when it comes to prayer. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to pray specific intercessory prayers, yet of course there are things for which I hope, fervently, and there are still things I feel God has shown me that have not yet come to pass. There are counter-voices in my life telling me prayer and faith are about acceptance of what is rather than asking an all-powerful, personal God to intervene in the here and now. It’s possible that’s true, but for me, it feels like that reality drains the color out of everything. If hope becomes a generalized, gauzy ‘blah’ that embraces whatever would have happened anyway without specificity, why bother? I used to dream in Technicolor, whole visions laid out in my mind that made it exciting to walk through each day to see where it led. Now I’m so fearful of disappointment that I don’t even want to ask, or wonder, or muse, and it’s changed me. A lot has happened in my life and spirit, and my relationship with God has changed, and I’m not quite sure how to walk in it anymore.
Some of the many thoughts that rattled around my mind as I entered church this morning: my friends might move, and maybe that’s because I wasn’t thankful enough that they lived here on my street. My writing is going nowhere, and maybe that’s because I had an inflated sense of its value from the start. My vocation is still unclear and maybe that’s because I never worked hard enough in any one area to solidify a career path. I have particular dreams for the new year that I’m afraid to voice because if I do, then they certainly won’t happen. God will have to cut down my inflated ego and will once again to make me humble and right-sized, and I’m not sure I’m up to that kind of violence again, so perhaps I’ll just put all of my dreams on shelves and hope for some mediocre, only-mildly-painful outcome.
Ugh. I know this is ugly and none of it is true, but it’s hard to live inside my head and life sometimes and today is one of those times. I’m an earwig in the holy water.
But then there’s Mike thanking me for my music ministry like he does so often, and Fran home for the holidays from the Air Force with his sweet Momma. There’s Barbara assuring me we made the right call in taking Christmas morning off for the first time in years. Donna and Paul, at whose wedding we sang yesterday, here again for Sunday mass. And Monica, present and winking at me through the pain of a fresh loss, a picture of grace bringing hot tears to my eyes. These people are anointed and holy and when I see myself in the midst of them, I sometimes don’t feel worthy, but I know that’s not true. They’re making me better, making me listen and notice the small movements of God, helping me become attune to His goodness by the example of their faith. Some days I am an earwig who naturally belongs in the damp darkness of the underside of a rock, but somehow God keeps calling me back to the holy, turning my face to the sun and bathing me in goodness. I’m weary, but God is still working, and I can’t help but hang on to the words of Mary and Elizabeth in today’s readings. Mary made herself available and Elizabeth called her blessed because of her belief. If I can manage both obedience and trust as I walk into this new year, then against all odds, by the grace of God something new will be born in me, and it will be holy. I’m counting on it. Amazing things can happen from the lowliest beginnings.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.