There were red lentils spilled across my floor and the perpetrator was in tears. I had ripped a bag of wheat berries and those too littered the tile. Babies crying and I really just needed to get the coffee going; I craved that warm fragrance in the air and the promise of a moment sitting down and sipping. Two emotionally-charged family issues were taking turns churning in my heart. Both babies wailing at once and the phone rings. My friend whose daughter would be taking sewing lessons from me on the line asking if I’d like to re-schedule as they hadn’t procured fabric. “YES” shouted my rather frazzled heart, but my mouth formed other words of “No, come, we’ll figure it out”.
I swept up lentils, tended to my fussy babies, and prayed; it’s the simplest prayer and all-encompassing: Lord, have mercy. It doesn’t mean only “Lord, forgive me”, it means, “Lord, HELP!”, “Lord, let Your good intentions in this moment of suffering bear fruit!”, “Lord, protect me from sin and error”. I love this useful prayer which has helped millennia of Christians. Because sometimes I’d just rather run away from my day and hide in a closet. With chocolate.
She sewed along a marker line I’d drawn on the fabric and gleefully examined the small stitches. “I did it straight!”, she exclaimed, and I smiled. She quickly learned to work the machine and soon had finished both a doll blanket and a small pillow. We shared a plate of cheese, crackers, and apples together with my friend and her other two children and there it was; that sweetness, that undefinable feeling of Christ’s Presence among us. I had been able to pass on a simple skill to an eager learner, mess and all. We figured it out, God giving timely grace.
I was glad that I had not heeded the fear that had lurked in my heart this morning, when everything was going wrong at once, the fear that said, “Look, you can’t even manage this day and these children well; you certainly have nothing to offer to another”. My foe doesn’t attempt grandiose temptations much anymore, but sly, practical ones. “Because of this hardship, you really shouldn’t expect of yourself to help with _____”. So it goes. I am learning to hear that cajoling, wheedling, whining, nag for the enemy that it is. I cross myself, I pray “Lord have mercy”, and place my thoughts elsewhere. As I’ve heard it said, you can’t control whether a bird lands on your head, but you can control if it builds a nest there.
Over on Facebook and in the news there’s been quite a bit of ugliness about the refugee situation following the attacks in Paris. I have been appalled by what some fellow Christians have said. Behind a lot of the blistering words is fear. Fear that some bad guys will get in; that they’ll hurt us. That we won’t have enough aid to help the hurting, wounded, and needy among our own citizenry, much less refugees. Sure…if we waited for the government to do all the work, we’d be in a bind. But…we’re the church, we are the hands and feet of Christ; how can anyone stop us from giving? It’s devastatingly simple: give sacrificially, make room in your hearts and lives for others’ needs. A complex problem can have quite simple solutions, if we decide that helping one person at a time might actually change things, instead of whining about the problem from our sofas in tandem with the talking heads, casting blame and pointing fingers and really doing nothing to help.
And what if they do hurt us?
We remember that Christ washed Judas’s feet knowing that he would be betrayed unto death by him. We remember God’s mercy on Saul, the murderer and persecutor of Christians, how God made him into Paul, a man who would go on to give his life in martyrdom. We remember our own sins, our own failings, and we cast a more merciful gaze outward.
We need to make room; our brothers and sisters are coming.
Come, we’ll figure it out.