Posted by: jevcat | April 11, 2010

Low Sunday

The Epistle section of yesterday’s daily lectionary included II Corinthians 5:7:  “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  Sight may be the primary sense for most people – I’ve spent much of this past glorious week of spring looking:  at the sky, the woods, the beach, the grass, and, especially, the ocean.  I can’t imagine not being able to see.

Yet it feels as though at the moment, in the metaphorical sense, seeing is just what I can’t do.  It’s dark, I can’t see where I’m going, I’m scared, and part of me – a big part – just wants to shut my eyes (why does one shut one’s eyes in the dark when one can’t see anything anyway?), curl up in a fetal ball, and whimper.  I don’t have a job, I don’t know when I will have a job, I don’t know how long we can hang on without me having one.  How can I move forward when I can’t see where I’m going?  If I move forward in the dark, I could fall.  “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  But sometimes it just feels too hard.

Then I get to church and the Gospel comes round, and I remember:  oh yes, Low Sunday, we get “Doubting Thomas”.  Poor Thomas!  He did other things, good things, but all anyone ever remembers is that doubt.  What was he thinking when the others told him their news?  Was it “What are you trying to pull?”  Or I can see a very reasonable modern Thomas – a therapist (or clergy type) maybe – saying something like, “I’m sure you thought  (or worse yet, “it felt like”) you saw him … ”  And I’m thinking of one of my favorite plays, Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not for Burning, where the lead female character says to a character who is tempting her with a bargain for her life, “Hope can be too strong, Humphrey; hope can break the heart.”  Was that what Thomas was thinking?:  “Don’t make me hope, it hurts too much?”

So it all boils down to faith, does it?  Uh-oh.  That’s not my long suit.  But at the moment it’s what I’ve got, or am trying to have.  Thomas did get what he needed, and somewhere I still have faith (that dirty word) that I will, too.  During Holy Week, I finished reading Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually), and it was a good book for me right now.  In one essay, she says, “I know that when I call out, God will be near, and hear, and help eventually.  Of course, it is the ‘eventually’ that throws us into despair.” And she tells a joke pointing out that we never know in what form God will give that help, and we need to be ready to recognize it when it arrives:  unwell on a ski slope, she imagines a Jesus in earmuffs coming to her aid.

I know I have to take those steps in the dark, and I know that the needed help will be there, if not necessarily in the form I want.  Maybe that’s what all the ocean time, all that wonderful beach light was:  storing it up to carry with me through the dark, knowing it’s there even when I am blind to it.  In another essay in Grace (Eventually), Anne Lamott quotes a friend of hers on prayer:  “You do what you can.  Then you get out of the way, because you’re not the one who does the work.”


  1. Oh, yes, it is that “eventually” that can drive us to despair. I remember writing a poem, about 7 years ago now, with these lines:
    “O Mother may I take my turn again?
    All shall be well, but Mother, tell me; when?”
    I could have just as easily written that poem this morning. For a person of aspiring-to-faith, that can be a whole life’s story. And you’re right when you point out that clergy are just as doubting as any other Thomasina, Dick or Harriet. I know, for sure, that I am!

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