All I wanted was a minute's peace.
No, that's not accurate. All I wanted was world peace, or something akin in my own little corner of it. At the very least, I wanted the noise in the church to go away. I wanted peace and quiet and escape from all that burdened me.
The Christmas season was ebbing away. I closed my eyes to pray after communion at Mass, to adore the Presence of Jesus in that moment. I attempted to pour out my heart, to break free from my troubles, to lean in and let him restore me with his holy food.
Instead I was remarkably distracted.
Normally, in prayer, I can tune out what's around me. This day my concentration proved inadequate to the distractions.
The church seemed chaotic. I could not escape the scratchy shuffling of communicants in line to receive. After a New England snowfall, the "snowmelt"—salt and sand that sticks to the bottom of shoes—makes a scraping, gritty contact with the floor tiles in our church.
It's like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Even the music distracted me; the cantor, Lord have mercy, was out of sync with the hymn.
Oh geez, I know I am pitiful as I nitpick others—after communion, no less! Lord have mercy… on me.
There's the distinctive cry of a newborn baby, and a new momma trying all she can to console, to no avail. She'll figure it out soon enough. She needs to be here as much as we need her to be here with her little one. And their small chaos jolts me back to where I am.
I refocus, this time on the other baby within my line of sight—the Babe in the manger—in all his poverty and humility; Jesus born into our chaos.
The clarity startles, and it smarts: Jesus is born into my chaos, and not only amid the human distractions I am experiencing in real time, but in the interior chaos that my overworked heart and soul were trying to get past. As if my heart could hear Jesus: Pat, I see the chaos, I know the chaos. Give me your chaos. I want to be with you.
In the last month, my life has had much to manage, and I was failing at it. It was delusional to think I could control things, and that delusion added to my sense of spiritual and physical overload.
I had been clinging to my will, my ways of doing things, my preferences. I had so many plans for family, for Christmas, for my work, and none of it had held.
None of it.
There was a sudden accidental death of one of our friends.
There were hospital visits for my mother, who lives a day's drive away.
There were unexpected travel plans for the holidays, very expensive car repairs, even a vet bill to repair a severe injury to my dog's eye.
My husband became unemployed, and two days later was diagnosed with an early-stage melanoma on his leg; there was the surgery.
And there's chronic pain in my deteriorating hip joint that worsens in the cold.
My tears? Too many. I have felt like a boat taking on water. Fearing capsize in these overwhelming currents, I frantically search for a life jacket.
I need a savior! I need someone bigger than my dilemmas, fears, hurts, angst, pain, and worries—the real ones, and the ones I imagine.
Each suffering—each echo of chaos, from the big life-or-death issues to the stupid distractions—points to my deeper need of Christ being born again in me.
That's where prayer and Mass come in; this is where chaos meets peace. We must eat and drink Jesus in.
Jesus comes to us not because we're all dressed up and ready to worship. Jesus comes because we are feeble and frail and messed up and in need of a makeover, a do-over, a life jacket.
Jesus comes not because we've got it together, but because we are battered and missing pieces and coming apart.
Jesus is born amidst our chaos, our confusion, our battle of wills, our noise, our sadness, and our sins. Jesus comes to redeem all of it. And all of us.
So there I was, on my knees that Sunday as the Christmas season ended. And there was Jesus, the bringer of my moment's peace, and so much more.
In those few vital moments, as I knelt there—just sick of myself, and the swirling flood engulfing me—Jesus offered holy patience, and it's the staying kind: a grace that buoys my boat. Through this season of storms, he will continue to hold the rudder if I let him.
I wanted escape. He asked to stay.
I wanted to run from it all. He desired that I run to his embrace.
I wanted peace. He is true peace.
This is the ever-present present—the gift of faith—the chance to turn everything that threatens to drown us over to the One who overcomes, who turns chaos into order, order into peace.
It should come as no surprise, and yet it amazes me again and again that he should meet me, exactly in this moment—in his Presence after communion.