In This Together
“Totally out of control,” I said to my supervisor when she asked me, “How’s it going?” Then I asked her the same question. “Kind of the same,” she replied. For her, something had snagged on a picture as she walked through her door, leaving glass shards all over the kitchen.
For me, well: Sunday had been pleasant: clear and sunny, if a bit chilly. Yesterday, I woke up to the gentle sound of rain, and an occasional roll of thunder: Good, I had thought; northeastern Colorado is desperately in need of moisture. But on the way to work, I noticed the moisture on the windshield getting thicker. and then I realized that it was snowing! And much as moisture is needed out here, heavy, wet snow on the 2nd of May hardly seemed fair. My students and I complained about it in class – and that seemed to help a little. But it’s the end of the semester and both the students and I are more than just a little stressed. To add to the confusion, I’ve sold my house and I’m preparing to pack, sell, throw away, and move (more about that next month). Yeah: shards of broken glass on the kitchen floor, snow on the 2nd of May, all of which seem pretty minor, petty really, compared with the war between Russia and Ukraine and a need for refugee resettlement, and political unrest at home, and concerns for global climate change (which maybe accounts for the snow?) … It reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The times are out of joint” – a sentiment that feels the more reinforced by the various news feeds that invade my e-mail in-box. It seems in so many ways that my life is so totally out of control.
So it’s the kind of day that I’m grateful for colleagues and students with whom to commiserate, whose support – and helpful suggestions for managing the crisis! – I can ask for and receive. We’re not any of us in this totally alone. It’s not up to only me to hold the world together in a time of chaos. Don’t take it personally, a friend says to me.
I often feel that to say, “It’ll be fine; God has the situation under control” is a pious cop-out. But then I have to stop and think: when Israel lost the war that they were fighting with Babylon and were marched on foot more than 900 miles from Jerusalem to Susa as prisoners of war – elderly and infants alike – it probably did not seem as though God had their lives “under control”: certainly not if we read Psalm 137, which is more angry and despairing than any other of the Psalms. And yet, according to the Hebrew texts, God enabled the Biblical authors to rethink their and retell their story, giving us, for instance, the texts of the prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 40 and onwards: “comfort, comfort my people, says your God”. Maybe that puts a slog through the snow on the 2nd of May into a bit of perspective.
Thinking shards of broken glass all over the kitchen floor; thinking the misery of yesterday morning. I wonder if there’s a poem in that. It probably won’t have the calming majesty and serenity of Isaiah 40: but it might help us laugh a bit. Which might be just what we need at the moment.
The Rev. Allen Heggen