The following is an excerpt from the Palm Sunday chapter in my book A Homemade Year. I thought it fitting for this 6th week of Lent, when we are all a little rusty and dusty ourselves from wandering in the wilderness for almost forty days, that we remember the more humble beginnings of the pomp and pageantry that we now call Holy Week. That we all remember that in the end we will be found.
There are people in this world who set out to do something- and then just do it, whatever “it” may be. They prosper under the weight of ambition. They can create mission statements, set goals, diligently map out their route using spreadsheets and bar graphs and miraculously, somehow it works. Their lives chug along like a well-organized military maneuver; things are precise, expectations are met or exceeded, contingency plans are always in place, though rarely needed. I have met a few of these people and marveled at their ability to stay on their straight, solid, path. I however am not that person, I never have been, and I suspect that I never will be. The truth of my life is that I trip over things, often tumbling head first into them, stubbing my toes and bumping my head on the way down. All the best things in my life have been found this way: husband, friends, children, homes, churches, kitchen chairs, jobs. I have stumbled across them on my way to something else, something I thought was better.
Today though was one of those murky days spent in search of something, anything other than what was. Plagued with frustration and exhaustion, heavy with emotion and insecurities, all the result of what Anne Lamott refers to as “bad mind” and what Holly Golightly called “the Mean Reds.” In other words, nothing was really wrong, and yet everything was all wrong. This was the state I found myself in during this morning’s worship service. I sat in the back, tears welling up at the strangest of times, my mind whirling and fuzzy, completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate – a book deadline looming, a full time job at the peak of busyness, two kids’ birthday parties to plan, increased responsibilities at church, not to mention the laundry piling up, the bills coming due and a pedicure I desperately wanted but had no budget for. This compounded the guilt I felt. I should be grateful for the laundry – at least I have clothes to wash and somewhere to wash them. At least I have a job and one I like, how could I be so ungrateful?
Sneaking out during the last song, wanting to avoid the loving kindness of my church family which would surely lead to more tears on my part, which would require explanations which I wasn’t sure, I could give. Who wants to comfort someone who is crying over the amount of laundry piling up? The contradiction of course is that I would have counseled anyone else to stay, to accept the love and prayers and hugs of their church family. But in my brokenness, my fear, my pride, and my self-justification that no one needs to be bothered with my laundry drama, I ran. I abandoned the opportunity to accept their love and my own advice, causing me further self-condemnation as my eyes again filled with tears and I backed my car out of the parking lot. When I pulled around the back of the church building, I noticed an old vintage metal lawn chair sticking out of the dumpster. I wasn’t looking for an old metal chair, but there it was, in the dumpster. I slammed on my breaks, put the car in park and hopped out. “Maybe it is just a piece of a chair,” I thought as I peered in, not daring to hope that anyone would throw such a treasure away. Looking in I saw not one, but two, vintage metal lawn chairs, robin’s egg blue, perfectly faded and rusted. Suddenly, for a moment, all murkiness and tears were gone. I reached into the dumpster and pulled those chairs out, stuffing them –grime and all– in the back of my car. They were old and crusty and imperfect.
Back at home I unloaded the chairs and looked at them sitting in the backyard with all the others that I have found over the years. The mesh ones, the bucket ones, the wooden Adirondack– all found in the trash. Each chair a found story. I imagined them all filled with friends and family for a spring evening gathering, a birthday party, Easter, and a wave of regret and repentance flowed over me. I prayed for forgiveness for running when I should have stayed. For wanting to hide my ugliness, my chipped and rusty heart, instead of bringing it into the light, and laying it bare in the circle of community. How could I forget that rusty and crusty is how I have been found, and is the hope for us all? That rusty and crusty, found in the trash dump is God’s favorite place to go shopping? He has never had it any other way. Even his most grand entrance was imperfect and impromptu; a moment filled with found objects and found memories. A moment where the simple and the second-hand – a borrowed Donkey, dusty cloaks, broken tree branches, a carpenter-king, a common community – are the humble beginnings of what is now our Holy Week. Christ enters Jerusalem in the most dusty and rusty of ways, he comes to us as we are: imperfect, unprepared, found.
Excerpted from A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together by Jerusalem Jackson Greer ©2013 by Jerusalem Jackson Greer. Used by permission of Paraclete Press.
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, nest-fluffer, urban farm-gal, and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas at the crossroads of beauty and mess with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of chickens and a Hungarian Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at http://jerusalemgreer.com
Pedicure!!! I missed the passage in today’s reading that describes Jesus needing a pedicure before he mounted the donkey… As for “Retreat Leader,” any time I encounter the word “Leader” in a Christian context, I run for the nearest desert retreat… Charis