On the swearing in of a new president, how should we pray? When I was growing up on an Oregon farm, my hippie mom was one of the only parents I knew at our rural church who’d voted for Jimmy Carter instead of Ronald Reagan. That could have created a split, but we continued sitting in the same pews and singing the same songs as before the divisive 1980 election. Mom didn’t sniff out which businesses had supported which candidate or pull us out of our church-supported school. She got up the same as every other morning, pulled on her rubber boots and went about the work that needed to be done, feeding our sheep and gathering the morning eggs.
If your heart has not been pulverized by sorrow, disappointment and injustice by the time you reach midlife, you are either sorely disconnected or extremely lucky. During the first week of this new year, I find myself wanting to lay my head down and weep at the hardships that encompass from within and without. I have much to be thankful for – a safe home, the love of my family and a few close friends, opportunities to pursue meaningful work. But along the way, the losses and regrets and awareness of my own limitations have snowballed to such a degree that the utter weight and size of my sadness threatens to bury me.
I had been warned. Loading heavy sheets of plywood and lengthy strips of siding and a storm door into the back of my minivan at a lumber yard tent sale, I had been warned not to tie the tailgate of my van open to fit it all inside. “Once you get going, you’ll create a vacuum,” the man who’d sold it to me warned. “It will suck exhaust into your vehicle.” Happy with the deals I’d scored, I paused for only a moment, considering the danger.
It was time to work. The yard and stone walls surrounding our house needed to be cleared of brush and fallen trees and blankets of dead leaves. The job was huge, far greater than I could do alone, and my husband was at the office. “Come help me clear brush,” I called to my older children, who were in their rooms, out of sight. Instead of hurrying feet, my request was met with silence.
Here is for the courageous ones. For those who say, “yes,” despite the personal cost. For those with the outrageous audacity to love those from whom they have nothing to gain. Here is for the California preacher’s wife, who at the comfortable age of 52, said yes to a dying missionary’s desperate request, “I’m giving you the orphanage.”