By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
Recently, a friend who clearly knows me well sent me this quote…
Some parents run a tight ship. I run a pirate ship. There is some swearing, some drinking, and a touch of mutiny.
I run a house with two teenagers. I identify. But I imagine that God belly laughs at this just as much as I do. We humans are a regular goat rodeo on a good day. Wrangling us into some kind of order? I cannot even fathom. Thank goodness God is merciful. In my home we’ve gone from chore charts to texting chores and reminders as one of the ways I try to impose some order on our days. I keep a family calendar with the ridiculous number of activities and events all logged in. It is a moving target. Often I miss things and am unaware of something I was supposed to know or do. Getting my arms and my head around the daily life we lead is near impossible.
One of the things that I cherish about our way of worship is the liturgical year, the order we try to impose so we can pay attention to the life of Jesus. That may sound horribly dry and boring. But it’s true. I love this way of ordering our days so we know what we are supposed to be doing when we show up. But it also much more than that, it is a perpetual way to show up and meet Jesus again anew.
Several years ago I found myself buckling myself into my seat as the big commercial jet I was in was taxi-ing out onto the runway at the airport. The man sitting next to me was probably my age, a cheerful healthy looking guy in a sporty blazer and smart tie. A few minutes later as the jet’s engines began to rev to get us turned out onto the runway for take-off, he turned to me and said, ‘well if this thing falls out of the sky, I’m not worried – I am ready for heaven!’ He sat there beaming at me broadly waiting for me to say something. But what he had said, he had said with a kind of kind of exuberance and excitement that left me not sure what to say. So I only sat there with a half-hearted grin til he gave up and turned away.
It was a big jet with two aisles so I had a good view of those sitting nearby. Just across the aisle, a mom I guessed was buckling her three or four year old daughter into her seat and then brushing back her little girl’s bangs from her face and leaning in speaking with her reassuringly. The little girl’s eyes were as large as saucers. Nearby, was an older couple their two hands clasped together and perched on the armrest between them. His head was leaned back, his eyes closed. She stole a glance at him and a smile came across her face. In another seat, a man was scanning an Excel spread sheet on his laptop screen and then scrunching up his face thinking about something with a small little ‘worry-line’ that came creeping across his forehead. What was he thinking of: an especially important presentation on which much was riding professionally and personally? the hope to get home soon and get off the road and see his wife and kids for a few days? Right at hand, two young people – maybe college kids – dressed pretty eccentrically, tapping away at their SmartPhones with one of them saying something to the other in a funny made-up accent. Towards the front, I could see the two flight attendants sharing something funny and then one of them shooshing the other. The one looked momentarily worried that she’d said something wrong til the other placed her hand on the other’s forearm reassuringly.
At Shrine Mont (our diocesan retreat center) in the summertime on the very last day of each session of camps for our kids and young people a special thing happens. On that last day, the kids gather at the Shrine of the Transfiguration an outdoor church of stone and trees and open sky. All the campers and their counselors gather for a closing ceremony where they share singing and laughing and shouting and praying together. And they share something else too. Everyone gathers in a really big circle and connecting that big circle of kids and counselors running all the way around that circle of people is a thin little cord of braided colorful threads. One of the counselors explains that this bright, colorful circle of woven threads shows them that they are all connected to each other as members of the Body of Christ. They are connected just like a toe is to a foot or hair is to your scalp. And then that long braided cord of threads is divided up in to five or six inch pieces which are then tied around the wrist of each camper and each counselor. It’s a friendship bracelet that each person wears home. It’s there, right on their wrist, to remind them when they get back to the real world of how they are still a member of a holy fellowship of love and belonging in the Body of Christ.
I was there one year for this closing service and after it was over, parents gathered up their kids and we all began to troop to our cars for the journey home. Just before we got into our car, I remember seeing two girls saying goodbye to each other. And oh were they ever feeling this goodbye. There were just crying and crying at their parting. They kept falling into each others arms and then stepping back to look at each other one more time, drinking in the sight of each other one last time.