It’s Thursday, and I’ve just finished watching Faith’s sermon from Sunday, which tells you something all by itself. It’s been a real week here. I’m not even sure why. Maybe this is the pandemic wall people talk and tweet about. I feel like I can’t think of another meal to make out of the standard grocery run items, like I can’t possibly watch any more TV, like I can’t bring myself to imagine that the world might be different in just a few short months.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, normally a day I take reasonably seriously. I thought of the kind priests at St. Ann’s and the Holy Trinity and held them in prayer for a moment, remembering spending Ash Wednesday with them, however briefly, during the past two years. They would offer ashes and space for meditation and prayer all day, and I would stop in on my lunch hour, since I was always passing through downtown Brooklyn one way or the other because of work. (Remember work? Remember passing through places, hopping from one neighborhood and borough to another, sometimes several in one day, on the bus and the subway? Remember the warm glow of stained glass between stone walls, remember hot noodles in a cardboard box with a sticker on top?) None of the Protestant churches around here were offering a daytime or outdoor service, and I missed church on Ash Wednesday for the first time in at least a few years. The day was dull. Even the ducks we visit a few times a week during our walks to the lake couldn’t be bothered to make an appearance yesterday.
I’m not giving up anything this year, or adopting any kind of new spiritual practice. I am doing or not doing whatever it is that I am doing or not doing so that I can be reasonably present and cheerful with my still small and dependent baby, reasonably decent to my husband, and reasonably sane in my rare moments alone with my thoughts. If that means binging Ted Lasso in four evenings and getting the four-pound tub of M&Ms at Costco again, so be it.
So I was feeling a bit spiritually dry, and tired, when I remembered I’d never finished watching Faith’s sermon from Sunday, and I started it from the beginning after I put the baby to bed. She’s going through separation anxiety at the moment and bedtime is difficult, so on top of everything else, I was feeling like a terrible mother even though I had fed her, bathed her, dressed her, read to her, sang to her, prayed with her, and hugged and kissed her. Maybe this is akin to the transference Faith mentioned in her sermon, when the feeling we felt towards someone or something else long ago bubbles up in a new and different situation, when we need the love of God to help to set us free from our confusion and blindness.
God knows, Faith suggests, the longing to be free expressed by Nina Simone. God responds to this longing. In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, he celebrates this response, when God said, “Let light shine out of the darkness.” That response comes to us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, which we remember especially in these days of Lent leading up to Easter—and comes again in every struggle for freedom, notably in another sacred space of time in which we find ourselves, Black History Month, and in yet another, the struggle to protect especially the most vulnerable from COVID-19. And in every struggle to stay stable, to stay grateful, to stay kind.
And maybe it comes, also, between the walls of my house. Those walls are safe and warm. They hold my family, human and feline; they hold plenty of clothing and food and fresh water, and more creature comforts beyond those things. We are so lucky. Losing sight of these facts makes me feel spiritually blind, and I cannot even look for God sometimes in those moments. I need God to find me and set me free from my boredom and frustration and sadness.
The light is still there, falling on the surface of the water of the lake between the ducks when they do show up. Or maybe it’s just coming from the television where I was determined to watch that whole sermon, because I know I’ve been missing something all week. Maybe it’s coming from the laptop screen where I’m writing this, coming back to the page yet again, trying to make sense of it all, trying to stay faithful to at least one spiritual practice. Maybe it’s still resting on the floor at Judson, at St. Ann’s and the Holy Trinity, having landed gently after being filtered through the stained glass windows. Maybe it will be there the next time I go to look for the ducks, the next time I’m free.