On mornings when I make it to the gym, I spend time on the treadmill. Sometimes I spend my whole gym-time on the treadmill, and other times I just do a 10-minute walking warm-up before moving on to other exercises.
No matter how long I am there, I always turn on the personal tv attached to my treadmill and watch the news- on mute. I listen to music on my headphones, but I watch the morning news with the sound turned off.
What I get, as a result, is a mash up of the world’s events, with no explanation.
I see images of burning buildings, police barricades at protests, reporters chasing down people on courthouse steps, mugshots, accident scenes, state leaders- both domestic and international- making statements to press corps, tapes of alleged wrong-doers in handcuffs being loaded into the back seat of police cruisers, stock market graphs, dogs and children looking for adoptive homes, and tear-stained victims giving their witness of one atrocity or another to a reporter who sometimes seems to be crossing the line of ethical decency in capturing raw emotion for public broadcast at moments of great personal vulnerability.
It’s a wonder that I watch it at all.
It is a collage of loss-fear-violence-power-grief-raw-despair.
I wonder if the details- the stories, the words- would allow this mash-up-with-no-volume to make sense? Or would it only exacerbate my own despair?
Later, at home, I do listen to the words.
I teeter between emotional overwhelm and compassion fatigue.
I think that I cannot watch one more moment…. and, then, I find myself sipping coffee, ironing my skirt and making the bed while I watch the aftermath of the latest terrorist attack on the tv in the corner.
And I wonder this:
How do we keep the faith, hold onto hope, and act like the resurrection people we claim to be, in the midst of all of this? How do we access compassion and use it as fuel for healing the world without feeling burned out or overwhelmed?
For me, the answer lies in the gift of Holy Scripture.
Each morning, I light a small candle and I pray.
I pray the office. I read the psalms and I read in Holy Scripture the stories of struggle, heartache, and despair from the lives of our spiritual forebears. Through the years, the stories in scriptures and the people about whose lives we read -these companions on the Way- have shown me that God does triumph, and that Love does win. In the stories of struggle, heartache and despair, at the end, there is often deliverance, salvation, and delight.
Not always, but enough of the time to give me hope.
The readings on Sundays in these recent weeks have outlined a difficult path for Jesus’ disciples on the Way. The future for Jesus’ followers does not promise a path lined with flower petals, lavender scented air and trees laden with ripe fruit. The harvest might be plentiful, but the work of the laborers is tough. And, yet, we lean on faith and step out into the field.
My prayer is that in this time that can sometimes feel like chaos, and in which the madness of this sorry world can feel overwhelming, that we hold onto that which we know to be true: the love and power of God as shown to us in the stories of our tradition. Lean on the stories of Abraham and Sarah led away from all that they knew to be safe; walk with Moses in the desert; imagine yourself with the boy Samuel left in the temple to serve the Lord; lean on the delight of David, dancing before the ark; lean on the widow giving her last mite; or the pearl in the shop window or the mustard seed grown to the sky. Learn from the beloved disciple John, faithful to the end; and from Thomas who said, “My Lord and my God.” Gaze like Mary at her beloved teacher. Have faith like the stewards at the wedding when the wine ran dry, and step out of the boat, like Peter, when beckoned by God. Be extravagant in your worship, spilling open the best jar of ointment that you have. Climb up into the tree to get a closer look at your savior, and come to the table, for supper is served and the Master is waiting.
Do not let the stories of Scripture mash-up, but treat each one tenderly, and like a jewel with a lesson to teach you.
This Scripture- it is good balm for the soul. It is God’s loving presence in the Word, and in it, we can find hope. Try it, if you’ve been away for awhile.
Here is an easy way to get started on the Daily Office: missionstclare.com