Why I ordered new pants today…
So I called my mom today and we visited. The subject came up about how we need to learn we cannot do it all, the opposite of what the world teaches. I’d just filled out forms to take a leave of absence from work, and I’d heard about my siblings, all who seemed to be overtaxing themselves in many directions. None of us thought we could do less.
I thought about my growing up, and it wasn’t that my parents taught us, “You can do it all,” but that “nothing should stop you.” came through loud and clear. When we needed to make room for my cousins for a time to live with us, we did. We just did. When our house flooded twice, we just kept going –off to work, off to school, onward. We complained about the cold floors and Mom and Dad got us little throw rugs and slippers. Press on. When my grandmother needed to live with us because of Alzheimer’s, we made room. She said, “This cereal tastes terrible.” one day to me and I looked. She had an ashtray with granola and salsa on it. I said, “Yes, I bet it does.” and gave her a new bowl and was praised for being a good cook. Life happened, and we just adapted to what life threw at us. Problem? Okay, deal with it, laugh and move on. Next!
Naturally as adults, this is how we internalized the reality –that nothing should stop us. It was the witness given, Which leads to the bigger question, how do we live such that we will help those who watch us, absorb as much as possible, the lessons we hope to teach?
In matters of faith, there’s been a recent question of the need to train people to give a vigorous defense of the faith. I don’t think the faith needs defending as much as it needs authentic witness, witness visible from space of our love for others and for Christ, and of our willingness not to fight, but to lay down our lives for the faith in living it. It’s not a matter of proofs or knowing the catechism or even theology. It’s a matter of imitating the disciples, who did not have scholarship or the riches of the history of the church, but had the most important thing, a personal deep convicting relationship with Christ that called them out of themselves and into the world for others.
How do we do that in this day to day 24-7 crazy pandemic and politicized internet and in real life existence? By treating even the errant as our brothers and sisters in Christ. By seeing the man laying down at the Panera as a person suffering rather than someone acting rudely in the restaurant. By seeing the receptionist that seems like she could teach the Washington Football Team a thing or two about blocking as an overworked human being struggling with having to manage a constant stream of people who don’t want to be there to get their blood drawn. By recognizing “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” these people we encounter, do not encounter Christ. It’s not easy.
There’s a joke in my family. If you pray for patience, it will be tested immediately. If you pray for humility, expect humiliations galore. Today, I read the readings and thought, “I’ll offer my sufferings.” which signaled those who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls to triple down.
I went to get prescribed labs. The place did not take electronic referrals which meant I needed to call the doctor and have them fax (circa 1993 anyone?) the order. Meanwhile, the patient room filled up with impatient people. I needed the bathroom, but the outside ones were for office personnel only, and the inside one needed clearance from the overworked receptionist. Mercifully, she let me in. The bathroom proved an adventure I would need to repeat two more times before I finally was seen to get my blood drawn. By now, I felt exhausted and starving and sick. The I.V. nurse let me lie down for the draw and told me to rest ten minutes before letting me leave.
Needing food, I thought, Panera. It would be healthy and I could go to the bathroom without requiring clearance –or so I thought. There was a code. I didn’t have the code. I did not make it. Diabetes, cancer and antibiotics lead to a bad combo. I’ll let you draw your own understanding. I threw out my jeans. Fortunately, I had a cloak and a long dress shirt, so I scrambled back to my car with my food after cleaning up the bathroom, over tipping, and vowing never to return to said store again for my own peace of mind. Humiliations 1-7 covered. I don’t remember offering them up. I do remember suffering them.
Witness? No. Just a real messy reminder to me, that even the best of intentions, when they run up against reality, do not always lead to us cooperating with grace as needed. Grace is always offered, we must get in the habit of grabbing it as we would a lifeline, for it is precisely that every time. I remembered after the fact, not in the moment. That’s what happened with childhood too…we remember after the moment.
I called my husband and he helped me laugh at it, and eventually said, “For something to stop you Sherry, everything has to go wrong.” and what had I done? I’d adjusted my wardrobe to allow me to leave and pressed on eventually laughing at it after I’d cried. “Honey, where are my pants?”
That was the lesson of childhood, and it still served me now. The invisible witness of layers of life still held. That was the answer to my faith question as well. We’d have to trust that the layers would do the work and keep layering. Layers of faith and witness would eventually take hold, like layers of clothing saved me, like layers of lessons taught me.
Here’s hoping whatever the lesson of our lives to our children, it serves them well in twenty-five plus years when they endure the equivalent of not being able to get into the Panera bathroom in time. In the meantime, I’m ordering myself some new jeans.