I’ve noticed that the world doesn’t take this week off. I mean, if you don’t pick up and travel to some location far away, life finds you. And it finds you doing what you do the other 51 weeks of the year. I’m not sure we know how to do rest anymore.
I was so looking forward to it – a week of Sundays with no demands. None of the regularly scheduled items. No deadlines. No meetings. No classes. No obligatory anything. All was left open. But that’s not enough. Because things wander in, and before you know it you’re more full with things to be done than you were when your appointment book reigned supreme. Unless we “take our rest,” we are restless, and the world’s ways have a very quick solution to that problem.
This week, known as Holy Week to those in the Christian faith, is the holiest week of the year. We are meant to set it aside, the culmination of a season of Lent which has prepared us for just this time. The week following Palm Sunday: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. What a package deal: 3 for the price of One, all on sale this week at a church near you!
That sounds just plain exhausting. Better to go on vacation to take our mind off it all. But this year, we haven’t. I’m here and I must decide what this week will be for me. For my faith. For my Lord. For my family, friends, community and world. Because that is why I am here.
What do I suffer so that someone else might be healed? It’s a simple question, with no simple answer. We all have to answer it for ourselves. The key for me is trusting that there is an answer. There is an intention behind what I’m meant to do, and it’s bigger – so much bigger – than me.
A friend just posted this on Facebook:
A week of palindromes. The dates this week will be the same read backwards and forwards. Were you to list these numbers, there would be no way of telling whether your started at the beginning or the end. The last would be first and the first would be last, and we couldn’t tell which was which. Cool, huh?
Funny that this is true of Holy week. The week where the greatest reversal of all time is celebrated. The week that death itself was defeated and life eternal took its place. Impossible to grasp, really. Yet, what I keep finding (and hearing from others when they find) is that when God’s solution in a circumstance or a question or a hardship or a decision is made plain, it makes perfect sense. “Of course. I should have seen that all along!” It’s so simple.
So, I sit with my week that isn’t quite what I had planned, and the things set before me. Kids who are hurt, injured, recovering and the parents and coaches who long for them to be well. I see the hardship that desperately needs healing, and I am in awe that He would entrust these to me. But God, this week? It was supposed to be our quiet week, our Sabbath time, our rest. We were going to get to those old projects, really wrap up the manuscript, tidy up those articles I have been meaning to submit, and clean out those closets. It’s spring after all!!
Wait. There’s no quiet there. The spring break holiday is no respecter of pain and suffering; they get no vacation, no break, no respite until healing comes. Health care workers are on the job, even on holidays, even on weekends, even on Easter. Perhaps this week, above all weeks, is meant to be dedicated to making all things well.
Jesus didn’t take a week off. Especially not this one. How simple.
My favorite sermon title ever: “Why Thanksgiving Always Comes Before Christmas.”
Each year this has new meaning for me. One year, it was the poster of things our family was thankful for. One year, it was thankful things on slips of paper in the turkey centerpiece. One year it was the photo of the ultrasound that would be my third child. We are a very small family, so it tends to be a quiet unassuming time.
This year was different, we were filmed. Our every preparation was documented on video, even time lapse photography of the dough rising for the dinner rolls. We didn’t dare make a move in the kitchen without alerting our daughter that we were about to…whatever. Did she want to record it? It’s funny what you do when you know you’ll be on film.
The irony was, all this footage was for juxtaposition. As backdrop to the events of the next morning. Her plan was to set up in the dark and cold on Black Friday morning and record time lapse photos of shoppers entering and leaving the Target against the rise of the sun in a very cold day after Thanksgiving. Her theme: what you miss out on when you hurry to Friday.
Time lapse is a fascinating thing to watch. Hours collapsed into seconds. Days into minutes. Years into hours. A whole lifetime, in a movie seating. The camera doesn’t select the best or the most memorable, it just marches on click-clicking. It records snapshots and compresses them into a living video. What would such a video of my life look like? Non-selective, random, regular recording. Sun rise and sun set. Day in and day out.
The things best recorded and most in focus would be the stopping times. Those moments when I paused long enough to consider, to pray, perhaps to help or to devote or to sit beside. Perhaps I would be recognized by the things repeated, that would be defined in the overlay. Things I did again and again, year after year. I hope thanksgiving would be one of these things.
It seems different every year, but it’s the one thing – perhaps the only thing – that we can agree on in our country; that we stop and give thanks on the 4th Thursday of November each year. But even that I see changing, as Black Friday sales have slipped into Thanksgiving Thursday evening hours. The moments spent with family – are they stolen? reinvented? compressed to make room? For sure, they are ruining the overlay.
Neighbors on our street crack me up. They have inflatables for all seasons: a jack-o-lantern, an Easter bunny, a snow globe snowing on snowmen. Last year there was one turkey; this year there were five. Mom, pop, and the three kids. (Who needs window stickers when you have inflatables?)
I chuckled to see the new additions on Thursday.
Today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, they have a new arrangement. A line of turkeys marching away from the corner. Presumably, away from Thanksgiving. What if, instead of bidding farewell to thanks, we let it lead us through the whole holiday season?
I think that was what Pastor Phil meant by that Sunday sermon. We always have Thanksgiving before Christmas because what a thankful people we are to have a Savior coming into the world yet again. A world grown darker since last year. A world even more self-sufficient. A world wrapped up in itself. Where Black Friday seeps into Thanksgiving Thursday because the stores are “just giving people what they want. More time to spend.”
Perhaps they have miscalculated. There is no such thing as more time. It is measured the same for all of us. There is however, time well spent.
What a documentary film our lives are making, recorded on heaven’s video, as time marches on and we lapse. Then repent. Thanks be to God for His one and only Son, here to set us right once again.
I know it’s old fashioned, but I iron. That’s not nearly as old fashioned as the linen napkins I just finished ironing. The Thanksgiving napkins. We’ll probably use them for Christmas, too. They’re special occasion napkins.
I realized as I was ironing that I love those linen napkins. They’re each monogrammed with a script “R” in one corner because they belonged to my paternal grandmother before they came to be mine. I couldn’t see this until I ironed them. And as I ironed I wondered about where these linens had been, who had used them before, on what family occasions, whose lips had been wiped on this very fabric? (Okay – the last is going a bit too far.) But there was history here in my hands. At first, stiff and crinkled and then supple and smoothed. It became important then to fold them with the “R” showing.
This became a devotional moment for me. The connection with my ancestors, yes, but also the smoothing. The act of seeing my effort, small though it was, take something uninviting and turn it into something welcomed. And isn’t it like God in these moments to share a little secret with us? Provide a little illumination that adds depth and meaning and value.
Those wrinkles, the product of washing and letting air dry, reminded me so of the messiness of my mind. (Now it occurs to me they are actually a bit like the convoluted gray matter itself – ah, the anatomist in me still lives!) How chaotic it is on the inside, firing one idea and then another, until they are so entangled that I can’t hope to capture them all. But here I was, taking time to do something that could wait, that could even go without doing, and it became a metaphor for the process that untangles and smooths.
I know from experience that if I wait just a bit and go about my chores and activities which don’t require a lot of figuring out, the firecrackers of thoughts will settle into their places, each connecting with the others into one big thought meant for the moment. Perhaps the whole day.
Key, for me, is clearing away the distracting chaos on the outside – which so temptingly calls to the chaos on the inside, “Come play. Come play. We will have fun.” – to honor the message in the moment. And perhaps to write it or share it. That’s fun.
Then I can go out and play.