Lent is called the season of Bright Sadness, because it is a time of both celebration and mourning.
That about sums up life right now.
We have had so many things to celebrate lately. Band gigs, debate victories, a piano recital, another Eagle Scout very close to his wings, more speech and debate excitement this weekend, daffodils blooming, sun occasionally shining, friends visiting, and everyone home and around the table. Many, many reasons to celebrate.
But woven between all the celebration is a season of struggling. The kind of struggle that has me flying awake at one in the morning, heart racing and mind frantic. It takes me a long time to settle back down to sleep, and it has me praying and breathing, breathing and praying, holding tightly to the ancient prayers that do not depend on my eloquence or my ability to know what I need. I am incapable of eloquence and knowing right now.
This morning I woke feeling not quite so done in, and I headed out to drop my son off for his college classes. As an aside: car problems have ALWAYS figured into the despairing times of our life. They themselves don't cause despair; they are just the waves erroding the cliffs, the bleach ridding the world of color. And so when the drive shaft of our son's rather wonky truck was found to be falling out on the road on Sunday morning? No surprise. It was more of a, "Of course the drive shaft is there. That makes sense" moment.
But back to my morning drive. The car had no gas, and gas costs $3.84 a gallon, and we were pretty far from the gas station, and we were running late. My response to these facts showed that I was fraying at the edges. It was not just a need for gas, or even a fear of running out of gas; my response had that decidedly falling off the cliffs of insanity feel to it, a revved up, you never! you always! ring to it. It showed the infrastructure of my mind for the shaking, weak and weary place that it is. Fortunately my passenger was merciful; he even pumped the gas, and I could breathe again.
But I do not like feeling so frail, so vulnerable, so easily rattled.
A few months ago, I visited the local Russian Orthodox Church. At one point, the congregation lined up and each person had their forehead anointed with oil. When I got to the front of the line, Fr. James asked me, "Do you know why we anoint your head with oil? Well, in the scriptures we are called to anoint the sick with oil...and we are all sick, aren't we, Diane?"
And I wept.
To have someone acknowledge that he knows I am "sick", that it is not a surprise or a disappointment or an inconvenience to him, overwhelmed me.
The next time I visited, he asked me again if I knew why...and I said, "Yes, but would you please tell me again?" Like a toddler with their favorite story, I needed to hear that good news one more time. Pretty please.
So for now, as we are struggling with things that don't come down to circumstances or other people, but sadly come down to our own selves and our lifetime of choices, it is a deep comfort to remember grace. God's grace, to be given as well as received, not deserved and yet freely given, the grace that slows my heart rate, steadies my breathing, and wills me back to sleep until the morning light.
I am sick. Anoint me with oil.