I’m fairly certain that the proverbial Murphy must have lived back during the time of the Egyptian plagues. You know – that guy who said something about bad things always happening at the worst possible time and in the worst possible way. Well, that guy — the one they call “Murphy” – is the new Methuselah. I know this because we’ve felt his presence in the last week. First it was the clothes dryer that died. (Wonder how you wash baby diapers without a dryer?) And, then, the headlight on Joel’s car went out the night Maria was in labor. (The police around here don’t like single headlights!). This was only the beginning of multiple Spencer plagues. (Yes. There have been several more, as with the Egyptians, but you get my drift.)
The new Grandbaby is in NICU. We can’t bring him home for a while. Guess it’s time to look for God in the little things again. There was a sacred hour last night when the not so reverend Grandma, in her “unbanded” non-hospital-authorized state, was allowed to hold and rock the baby (all alone!) for almost an hour. I discovered that this precious newborn responded remarkably to “Hymn to Joy.” He would calm down, relax and snuggle in every time I came back to that tune.
Next, there was the blessed woman from the Catholic diocese who sat down on the floor with me and gave me communion early this morning. That as prelude to being banned from the Ronald McDonald room for a while. (What does one do with an active six-year-old who can’t go to the playroom nor the NICU where his new baby brother is. . .?)
There is a sense of numbness as we face surgery in the morning. It feels very similar to lying in a head brace during my own surgery last fall, totally out of control, out of my element, wondering what happened to God. (“Why is it,” I wonder, “that we automatically question God at times like this?”)
The house feels intensely empty tonight with my son and daughter-in-law at the hospital with the baby, and their six-year-old taken away to safer pastures by the other Grandmother. (This is not the way this long-anticipated visit was supposed to go!! I was supposed to be loving on a newborn baby at home, and baking ginger bread boys with the six-year-old!) This is definitely “Murphy” at work . . . again.
The sense of helplessness in the face of crisis is overwhelming. It always, always leaves me feeling empty and alone. Oddly, I learned long ago that God’s presence is most powerful when I am at my weakest, when I honestly don’t even feel that Presence at all. Tonight, tired as I am, I feel like kicking and screaming and throwing things, much like a six-year-old! Yet there is a calm, still, quiet place in my soul that impossibly insists, “Peace. Be still. . .”
Someone once said, “The devil is in the details.” I think it’s more probable that God is in the details . . . all the concerns, the hope and fears, the every-day-life logistics, the inimitable plagues that bug the fool out of each us – all of this is often met with the necessary stamina, the time for resting, the ability to listen and love and even, on rare occasions, to catch a glimpse of God at work in our midst.
Perhaps the most important detail in the midst of a week of plagues came from a newborn baby’s response to the profound tune penned by Beethoven so long ago. The baby doesn’t know the words we sing to that tune yet, but the message is obvious:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain Call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living, Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, Lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the mighty chorus, Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward In the triumph song of life.
~ Henry J. Van Dyke ~
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