This week, a fairy tale came true in London; and a nightmare became tragic reality in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and across the south.
People in this country who struggle to be a work by 8:30 in the morning set their alarms for 4:00 AM and rolled out of bed without complaining to watch the Cinderella story which unfolded in London: Kate, the commoner, became Princess Catherine of Cambridge, when she and William exchanged their vows in the soaring sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. Thousands of flowers, millions of cheering well-wishers, a carriage ride to Buckingham Palace, and a balcony kiss—two of them, actually—made “happily ever after” seem possible.
Then there were those painful images of devastation and sounds of anguish from tornado-ravaged regions of the south. Piles of sticks and bricks, mountains of rubble and ruin where once stood homes, schools, churches and businesses. Towns and neighborhoods blown violently off the map. Lives cut short. Hope for the future lost, for now, in the debris of destruction.
We live between fairy tales and nightmares, don’t we? Between breathtaking wonder and heartbreaking misery? Between good news and bad? One day, the mail brings a picture from old friends of their newborn granddaughter, and the next morning’s paper has in it a classmate’s obituary. Your neighbor loses her job, and your nephew finally finds work. Wedding bells ring; divorce decrees get issued. You get accepted to your first-choice college, on into governor’s school, or into the honors program, and you can’t wait to tell your friends. You don’t make the team or get-in the top choir or land a role in the play or get the scholarship, and everyone knows, though you wish no one did.
Most days aren’t fairy tales or waking nightmares. Most days are just in-between kinds of days: normal ups and downs, common delights and disappointments, ordinary opportunities and challenges. Most days, thank goodness, we don’t wake up to the aftermath of killer storms. And, most days, there isn’t a royal wedding. The mail doesn’t bring a birth announcement or a letter from the admissions office , just catalogs, advertisements, and bills. Most days, we aren’t getting test results or a performance review or an audit notice from the IRS. We’re just living our routine, everyday kind of lives, hurrying from one thing to the next, trying to get it all done, and doing the best we can.
We need a faith, a way of life, that embraces all of it—a faith that faces honestly life’s hardest and most painful things, a faith that knows how to walk in the dark, how to cry without shame and to ask for help without embarrassment, and how to bear the heavy burdens of trouble and struggle without being crushed by them. We need a faith which trusts that God holds onto us, even when we don’t have any strength left for holding on.
We need a faith that celebrates freely and fully life’s fanfare and festival moments, a faith that knows how to laugh and dance, play and rest, bless and affirm, a faith that says “yes” to life’s joys welcomes its gifts. We need a faith which knows that God delights in our truest selves, is glad about our successes, yearns for our fulfillment, and is committed to our becoming everything God dreams of our becoming.
We need a faith that shows us how to discover extraordinary meaning hidden in life’s the ordinary details—a faith that causes us to pay attention to the surprises tucked into routine, that helps us uncover the treasure hidden just beneath the surface of the same old things, and that opens our eyes and ears and hearts to the glory— sometimes disguised and disfigured, but always there, of every human being we meet.
We find that kind of faith in the company of Jesus, who has scaled the heights and plumbed the depths before us and for us. And, Jesus is a poet of ordinary life—of all the everyday kinds of days between the peaks and the valleys. He shows us how live receptively—how to welcome possibilities waiting to greet us, the joy waiting to find us, and the meaning waiting to enrich us in every moment and each encounter.
How true. For the past two weeks I have tried to get my arms around those people ariund the Mississippi River who are facing total destruction for the benfit of others. What would I do? Why is this happening? What does this say about faith? How much faith can one have to cope with this natural problem?
You're asking the same kinds of questions I am asking. I don't really expect to get any satisfying answers, since these are the questions that of troubled people of faith for as millennia. But asking the questions matters because it is part of what makes us compassionate human beings.