This week, I joined my friends Marilyn and Eldon to go to a local senior’s home again to do some singing. Lugging guitars, jingle bells, triangles and rhythm sticks, we sang our hearts out to Christmas tunes with a few Beatles favorites mixed in. “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Octopus’ Garden” is a perfect Christmas mix, don’t you agree?
Like always, this time is like no other during my week. All my seemingly important Christmas plans and lists drop away as we enter another time zone, one with people who no longer have a schedule and are the vulnerable ones in our society. These people are unfailingly a gift to me as they remind me of what is truly important.
It’s their utter fragility that is a gift to me, opening up a holy space. They have become emptied of many of the
things that formerly identified them. Yvonne seemed stirred by the conversation to say things, but then didn’t have access to words or thoughts long enough to express herself. Craig, a young man struck by Multiple Sclerosis, was unable to join us due to a mysterious lung infection. Eldon dropped in to see him before we left, and our hearts went out to him in his difficulties. Sue, usually an anxious woman, beamed as we sang and clapped with enthusiasm during and after each song.
All sit with us, prisoner to their various ailments, resting in their wheelchairs or with their walkers. Whether it’s their minds, bodies, spirits or all three that have been struck by limitation, they have nevertheless joined us for an hour of singing, and I can’t help but love them. The music brings us all out of ourselves, lightening our spirits and binding us together in love, no matter what our predicaments.
After the singing, we wheel or walk these folks back for their evening snack. Rose, a kind woman, was a newcomer to the home that week. As we got ready to go back, Rose felt lost. “I don’t know the way back to my room,” she confessed to me. I took her wrinkled hand and said, “Don’t worry, take my hand and we’ll figure it out together.” We didn’t say much as we walked down the hall at a snail’s pace, searching for home, but my heart stirred as I was struck by how real God felt in these moments. It’s a great metaphor – slowed down by life’s predicaments but still walking together, searching for home.
I woke up at 3 a.m. that night with a headache, and couldn’t get back to a deep sleep. With the school Christmas concert and a Wednesday night presentation ahead of me that day, I desperately needed sleep, but it was not to be. Strangely though, as I lay awake, the holy moments seemed to continue with me. I felt love and gratitude for people in my life who show God to me every week. Lyle and Joel, my soul-friends at Watershed, co-workers who kept encouraging each other during the concert prep, and my parents who pray for me every week without fail. All these people point me towards my home base. These people all rested in my heart, like a backdrop canvas of proof that despite my own limitations and propensity to anxiety, God is abundant in our world.
For our Watershed Sunday service this week, we are thinking about Mary, the woman who bore Jesus. As the story goes, she was just a teen-ager, a nobody, when the angel told her she would be the bearer of the Son of God; a miracle. She was one of the underprivileged of the world. Wondering how on earth this could happen, she was told by the angel, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Instead of resisting and coming up with a million excuses why she couldn’t do this, she simply put her doubts aside and said, “Here I am”. Her simple and open-hearted trust in God continues to be an example to millions of people each year.
During my sleepless night, I had a vision of love for the people around me, yet when I got up that morning, I remembered that living out this love is not always as easy. The “holy glow” of visions can lose its sheen when we trip with clay feet into our days. We bump into each other’s weaknesses all the time – is God’s birth in our world even possible? The seniors and I might well say with Mary, ”How is love supposed to come alive amidst all this limitation and emptiness and pain?”
Meister Eckhart, a famous German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born in 1260, reminds us: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God some 1400 years ago and I don’t give birth to the son of God in my person, in my time and in my culture?”
God always reminds us that nothing is impossible with God. Life may harden our hearts, but God can break through any barrier we put up. I know this is true because it keeps happening to me, week after week. In so many ways, God keeps taking my hand, bringing me back home. The only requirement is our open eyes and a willingness to admit we’re lost without God.