Holy Week Meditations: On Terror and Making a Difference and Being Small
On Monday of this week, of Holy Week, Katie woke after a two-hour nap, calling my name from her crib. She buried her face in my chest when I picked her up, leaving trails of her tears on my shirt, and then settled against me with a sigh. I sat in the rocker in the corner and covered the both of us with a blanket. Within moments, she was asleep again.
I hadn’t anticipated this; though her sleeping in my arms used to be the norm, it rarely happens anymore. Most days, she wakes and we snuggle for a bit, but then she is awake and ready to play, toddler vivaciousness present in her grin and her actions. Energy in its purest form.
She fell asleep and I was unprepared. My phone and my book and my journal were all inaccessible. At first, I let my mind wander, but soon enough the room – darkened by the lingering storm outside – and the white noise and the soft whisper of her breath all conspired to try to lull me to sleep as well. Not wanting to let that happen, I searched for something to occupy me and found it, there on the floor beside my chair: Emily Freeman’s Simply Tuesday.
I bought Emily’s book when it first came out last year, and then promptly set it on the floor of the nursery and failed to read it. Every time I see it, I think that I should pick it up and put it away, find a place for it on my crowded bookshelf, but somehow, I’ve never quite gotten around to it. On Monday, I was glad for my slovenly ways, for it meant I had something to read.
As Katie slumbered, I read Emily’s words, and I was grateful for them.
On Tuesday morning, I woke to the news of attacks in Brussels. I saw blurbs about it in my Facebook feed, heard statements from those who would be President about what should be done to address such things, listened to the pundits and the talking heads and the people who may or may not be experts as they discussed the situation.
These stories are becoming all too familiar. The list of cities grows. London. Istanbul. Madrid. Jakarta. Kabul. Paris. Ankara. Many more, too many to list, really. And now, one more. Brussels.
Heaven help me, but of late, my response to such news has been more a resigned shake of the head and a sigh than the shock and the horror and the grief that these attacks used to bring. Heaven help me, but they’re becoming just one more item to add to a list of atrocities, just that much more blood to lay at the feet of ISIS. Heaven help me, but the ugliness of the world is slowly eroding my ability to respond, to care, when I hear yet another suicide bombing, yet another mass murder.
Heaven help me. Heaven help us all.
In the (nearly) two years that I’ve been at home full-time, I’ve found that the hardest aspect of it for me, personally, is not the lack of adult interaction, nor is it the repetitious nature of parenting a young child. No. As difficult as both of those things are, the hardest part of being home is feeling a lack of purpose. It’s wondering whether I’m really making a difference in the world.
I know that raising a family matters, and matters immensely. I know that snuggling a sleeping toddler and reading endless books and tickling a soft belly and providing a consistent and warm and loving presence are all invaluable, immeasurable. I know these things, and yet, I have these cycles of doubt, these moments when it all feels so small.
When terror seems unstoppable, when it becomes so common, so everyday that it happens and I hardly blink, where is the meaning in washing another load of laundry, in building a tower out of blocks? Shouldn’t I be doing something bigger, something more?
It’s Wednesday now, Wednesday of Holy Week, and I’m reminded of something I learned (or, perhaps, relearned) a few days ago: the gospels fail to mention any of Jesus’ activities on this day.
Sunday was marked by the triumphal entry. Monday and Tuesday by visits to the temple, both involving their own type of confrontation. Thursday was Passover, Jesus’ last meal with His disciples, the prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Friday – Good Friday – the trial and the crucifixion. But Wednesday? Not a word. Not even to mention Him resting, or seeking solitude, or praying. Only silence.
In Simply Tuesday, Emily encourages me to seek the small. She reminds me that really, truly, I am. Small, that is.
I know this, of course. I know it when I stand by the ocean or when I gaze up at the night sky. I know it when a storm rattles my window panes. I know it when my daughter curls in close to my chest and I take a deep breath of her. I am small, and this is not a bad thing.
Still, I often yearn for significance, thinking that, somehow, I must make a big splash to matter. I want to be doing something bigger, something more, forgetting that I am called to the small. To act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly. To live a quiet life and to attend to what has been given to me.
Emily encourages me to seek the small, reminding me of things I already know. I need this reminder now, especially, in the midst of Holy Week, at a time when the world seems especially dark.
I’m no theologian or seminarian. I have little formal training in studying scripture. I am only passingly familiar with the culture of first-century Jerusalem, and so I do not know for sure what may have transpired on that last Wednesday before Christ was crucified.
I wonder, though, if He didn’t spend that time in the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, people He loved. I wonder if He shared moments of revelation and intimacy with His disciples. If He gave them personal, individual attention, if they had one last day of joy and laughter and wonder before the grief and sorrow that was to come.
Jesus knew His time on earth was drawing to a close. He knew what the next forty-eight hours held. And yet, He didn’t try to cram big things into this last Wednesday, as I may have been tempted to do. He didn’t preach to the multitudes, or heal huge crowds, or feed thousands. He did nothing – or nothing that the gospel writers recorded, anyway. And I wonder if there’s something important for me in this silence.
At the end of His ministry, as His life on earth drew to a close, Jesus chose to be quiet. To (perhaps) spend a day alone, with those who He knew and loved the most. He chose to be small.
In two days, we will acknowledge the terrible sacrifice made on our behalf, the one chosen willingly so that we might be free. On Sunday, we will celebrate victory and life and the wonder of the resurrection.
When I stop to consider the reality of God-made-flesh nailed to a tree, when I ponder the joy of Sunday morning, when I think of the darkness in the world around me, these daily acts of love of mine seem paltry. Compared to the enormity of sin and the incredible power of new life, choosing to influence the lives of those around me seems mundane. When held against the desperate need of the world, what I have to offer seems so small.
But then, maybe that’s the point.