Thursday, September 10, 2009
Details are the hinges of the universe
It took me just over 10 months to read The year of living biblically by A.J. Jacobs. A self-confessed agnostic, he spends a year following the bible as literally as possible with some suprising results. Being a usually voracious reader who devours books in single sittings, it is possibly the longest I have ever taken to read a book because this is the kind of book you want to allow your mind to marinate in slowly so you can reach some conclusions of your own.
I've been pondering a lot lately on the 'whys' of life. Perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed by them is more accurate.
For instance, why is there so much suffering in this world? Why doesn't God intervene? What happened to miracles?
Standing in Woolworths on Wednesday, holding sleep-wear for my 78-year old grandfather who suffered a stroke on Monday night and was being admitted into hospital that afternoon, I was feeling a little more overwhelmed than usual. An older woman dressed stylishly caught my eye and, when our paths crossed at the end of the tills, I complimented her on her clothing and how lovely she looked.
She looked at me with shock on her face and said: "I would never have thought it after the day I've had. You see, I've just found out that my second husband, who has been in and out of work for a few years now, has two policies that will not pay out a cent when he passes away. My son also died and I don't have a pension. I don't know what I am going to do. It's bad to say, but I feel cross with God."
I told her that I thought God is big enought to handle it, then I prayed with her, mostly unsure of what to pray for other than some peace and her own version of a God-sent miracle.
She gave me a hug and said: "Thank you. I feel like our paths were meant to cross today."
It was then that I was struck by a mini-epiphany. 'Mini' because it doesn't really answer any of the 'whys' definitively, or generally make the tough parts of life easier to handle in any way.
Instead, what it offered was a realisation that though your needs may be great, at all times, there are other people in this world whose needs are probably greater, and in that you can give thanks. Not for their suffering, you understand, but rather for your blessings.
It is, I guess, the quintessential metaphor of looking at the glass half-full. Taking notice that for those five minutes, my belief in prayer was the answer to someone else's need. Giving thanks that I didn't ignore that tapping on my shoulder that all was not as it should be with my grandfather's medical treatment. Accepting the quiet, "Thank you and God bless you", from the mother with the baby standing begging at the robot, grateful for the groceries I bought them. Getting up everyday and smiling instead of moaning about the day's work ahead, because many would like to be in my position and aren't. Enjoying tender kisses from my dear husband. Cherishing a laugh with my parents who gave me a good upbringing and excellent education. Giggling at the adorably odd individuals my niece and nephew are becoming. Appreciating the accomplishment of a student thanking me when I've explained something they didn't understand.
In essence, God is in the details, if you choose to see Him there. And most days, those details are what keeps you pushing on.