I had a quite intense religious experience last week. It really came out of the blue.
Like most of us who are dealing with snow storms in the United States, the past couple of weeks have not been ones of convenience. Our oldest son moved to our town and he fell in love right away with a very sweet gal. Both of those happenings have been grand! Our other adult son decided to go to college in the town where we live. This decision of his has been superb for me!
But, that means that when fourteen additional inches of snow falls upon snow that was already on the road, last week I was worrying about four adults besides myself driving safely to work and school. Even more worrisome was that my oldest son was needing to move while sick, without missing work, while the storm was happening.
It all worked out thankfully other than a nick on his new dining room table.
So, then on Monday, we all had a snow day and I wasn’t feeling well, but our youngest son was able to live the life of a kid and had a great time in the snow. This is good.
I wouldn’t say that prior to this storm I was feeling depressed, but I’ll admit that I was in a slump for much of January.
It was more like a winter blues state of affairs and I’m not sure why.
But, this is where the religious experience comes in – I’m not sure how to put it into words other than that my slump is no longer. Bare with me as I try to describe what happened, I think it was last Tuesday evening.
I have a very dear friend who lives in Chicago, which is only a couple of hours drive away from here. I’ve not seen her in, as Billy Joel would say, the longest time. A week or so ago she wrote a beautiful blog post as a guest writer on a theology blog. What she said, in essence, is that for what it’s worth, darkness can be a place of learning. That, if we let our long nights become a place of reflection, the Holy Spirit swoops right in and manages to turn our worry and despair and wondering into the most lovely surprises that we could never imagine ourselves.
And, I’m not sure if this was part of what she was saying in her article, but what she said made me think about how guilt can really mess with this whole magical system.
In the Catholic Church, before we receive communion we say a prayer that goes:
Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof
only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
I’m guessing that when Pope Benedict changed this prayer from a previous one he was talking about a communion wafer hitting the roof of my mouth, but it’s not how I imagine things when I say those words out loud.
I imagine being surprised by a friend stopping by my house on a whim. The sink is full, my homework is far from done, my hair looks more like a bird’s nest than usual. And out of the total blue, there she is – a cherished friend, perhaps in high heels with a camera in tow, looking for a quick chat and a long hug. And since it’s communion we’re talking about here, of course Jesus is in the picture as well. I either imagine him being there at the door as well, or having taught that cherished visitor to stop by and lift a burden.
Now, back to my theologian friend. I’ve known her since she was born. I have the distinguished honor of being her first babysitter beyond her grandmothers. I must say she was not the easiest baby to care for because she did a bit of fretting. She couldn’t wait for her parents to return and I had to come up with a good balance of fun and quiet and soft singing to get her down for a nap.
She really loved silence.
As an adult she and her husband have been waiting a very long time to make themselves a family of three.
Now, if you will, go back to my story about our latest snow storm. It was big enough to shut Chicago down, which puts in a really, really big snow storm category. Our town gets pretty much the same weather as Chi, but less windy. So – on an evening mid-week after the storm and moving our son, and digging out to get back to work and school I needed a pick me up. I decided to work on a project that I felt like I had failed. I had plans to make several sets of painted nativity Holy Family people to give away for Christmas, but things got busy and I only made a few. What the heck I say to myself, I’ll work on them as an Easter project. So I sit down in the dark, at the kitchen table and start painting.
If you have ever had a family or a dog (we have two),
please imagine how many times I may have been interrupted or distracted while simply trying to decide between pink or paisley paint colors.
I found myself just ignoring the excitement and praying though – it wasn’t even on purpose. As I started to coat a couple of little Magi, a little bit of burden fell off and I started asking God for a bit of help. And I said sorry, I’m not sure about what. Maybe it was about Christmas not being what it could have been in our house, maybe it was because the laundry wasn’t done, probably it was related to having missed going to Mass for a couple of weeks.
Then my cell phone rings.
It was a college friend and she said: “Get on Facebook – go now.There is something you need to see.”
And it was one of the most beautiful baby photos that I will ever, ever, ever see in my whole life.
Our friend who had been waiting six years to bring a baby home, had welcomed him into the world at last. And his skin is the exact color of beautiful that I was painting – out of guilt and life stress, at my kitchen table.
Lucy Wainwright, the musician, is right on target with her beautiful lyrics. My love for this little person, who I knew would come into my life some day, is stronger than any winter that her mom could be frightened of.
This makes me happy.