A reminder from a friend that time is never ordinary
God feels distant—not absent, just a little farther away. It’s okay, really, because the church bulletin last Sunday assured me that this is 25th week in Ordinary Time—one of those everyday weeks that isn’t part of Lent, Easter, Advent, or Christmas.
Twenty-five weeks of Ordinary Time so far this year—that coincides almost exactly with the number of weeks since I lost a close friend who died unexpectedly. Easter came about a month after he died, and for that week, God felt a little more accessible in the rituals and reminders of why I practice my faith.
But in those weeks of Ordinary Time, when I usually feel a Presence hovering, I’ve struggled.
Are you there, God?
Of course, I hear. But the sound is muffled.
I go to my women’s circle meeting, where we have two new members. Both are grappling with why God would take their children—a 16-year-old son and a 26-year-old daughter.
Another member is exhausted from a string of debilitating challenges. She rages at God, asking why, and in the next breath talks of how God used her to bring comfort to a teenager she barely knows.
When one woman apologizes for crying, a long-time circle member who recently lost her mother reassures her. “It’s okay. You get to cry here.”
I learn today of another member of the circle who lost her mother this morning. I learn from social media that my friend’s 15-year-old daughter lost her grandfather, who was 92. That wouldn’t be such a tragedy if this 15-year-old hadn’t lost her mother, my friend, last September—in the middle of Ordinary Time that was anything but ordinary for a girl who lost her mother.
In the face of their pain, I feel ashamed that I haven’t regained my balance yet from losing two close friends in a year.
I talked this week with an acquaintance who grew up in a faith tradition similarly rigid to my own childhood tradition. After the devotion of her early years and the anger of her young adulthood, she chose meditation as a way of finding peace. Like me, she’s living in Ordinary Time right now—and ordinary is satisfying.
Both of us acknowledged that when life is good, we tend to feel guilty in the presence of people who are in the midst of challenges. And a little hesitantly, we admitted that when we’re loving life, there is a part of us that is frightened, that keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop—for that moment when we lose everything to a tempest too awful to contemplate.
I suspect we aren’t the only ones who are better at forging ahead when times are tough than we are at accepting the grace of life’s gifts.
One of today’s lectionary readings comes from Psalm 143: “Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me…” (7)
It falls among some of my favorite psalms that speak of a God who is gracious and merciful, who executes justice for the oppressed and feeds the hungry, who heals the brokenhearted and wounded, who gives refuge in the shadow of his wings.
I stand in awe yet again that, though the world has changed much in the thousands of years since these songs were written, human beings have not.
How is it that God executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry? God doesn’t rain down manna from heaven these days. But when people come together, it’s our wings that provide the shadow to a person in need until the storms pass by.
How is it that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds? When I’ve been brokenhearted and wounded, it’s the people who’ve helped take care of me who’ve helped me glimpse the face of God again.
So, yes, all of us have times when God feels distant and maybe even absent. But when we flail, it’s the strength of others that can help us feel the Presence of the Spirit that is in us all.
This I know.
And maybe, if I keep reminding myself, one of these days I’ll get better at knowing and accepting the grace of the Ordinary.
Tell me your stories of the Ordinary, the Extraordinary.