As I sit down to write today, I realize that I began the experiment of this weekly writing in this format ten years ago this month. Such anniversaries seem worth acknowledging and as I do so, I would take a moment to thank you for walking alongside through this last decade as week after week I come to the keyboard often just ‘working it out.’ Some of you were friends before I began this. Some of you have become friends along the way. Even though we may never have met face to face, know that I am grateful for your ‘showing up’ each week. Indeed, most of all I am grateful for your companionship as together we are about the same thing — finding ways to receive and share this precious Word with a world which needs it so. God Bless You as we wind our way through the end of Advent once more and as we celebrate the Incarnation again in a few short days. Janet
It is so very many years ago now.
We were seniors in seminary and out with a group of close friends.
Sitting in a circular booth, I happened to be next to one who was due any day: whose child was, in fact, at that very moment, ‘leaping in her womb.’
Before I knew what was happening, she reached over and grabbed my hand and pressed it to her very full belly and with eyes shining exclaimed, ‘Can you feel it?’
And I have never forgotten it.
This comes to mind today as I consider this so very familiar story of Mary’s hurried journey to see her cousin, Elizabeth, and of all they shared once she arrived. I remember it now as we recall the mystery they shared and as we realize that it all came down to something so very every-day and so very wondrous and so unbelievably amazing all at the same time. Life moving in the womb of one who should have been well past such as this. And that life already moving towards the purpose he would hold, as do we all: responding to, pointing to, leading others to the One who was even then being formed in Mary’s womb.
Indeed, I wonder if Elizabeth took hold of Mary’s hand, too, and with eyes shining exclaimed, “Can you feel it?”
That’s about as far as the parallel goes though, I’m afraid.
At least at first glance.
For Elizabeth had already seen so many years of life with all its joys and heartaches both that she knew that this one growing within her would surely know the same, although she would not likely have lived long enough to see John’s tragic end.
And Mary, although so young, if the song she sings now is any indication, Mary surely knows with some authority something of the lowly and the hungry so desperately in need of God’s gifts. Unlike Elizabeth, she would witness first-hand what would become of the ‘fruit of her womb.’
Sitting in that round booth at Manning’s Bar in St. Paul the spring of 1988, I expect we only had an inkling of what would come next for each and all of us. On the surface it seemed to be all just laughter and promise and hope for those gathered then. (This was not entirely so, of course, for as I look back, I realize I knew even then something of the stories of those gathered. Indeed, we already had our share of wounds and scars which life had handed us. Even so, we could not have fully known then what the decades would bring. At least I know I did not, could not…)
Indeed, little could I have imagined that this precious memory of her hand grabbing mine would come so vividly to mind this year as I leaned into my computer screen to watch that old friend’s funeral, with her husband and that daughter and another one, too, sitting in the front row, distanced and masked.
Little did I know then that the sensation I can still almost feel in my fingertips would bring not only gladness and wonder, but also a measure of sadness, realizing now this certainty that as calls to serve took us to different parts of the country, we would then only meet but briefly and occasionally as the years went by. And to know now how quickly the time goes.
And yet, there was that moment in a circular booth on a spring night with friends.
An instant which spoke of hope and promise and of all that was to come.
One I never forgot which, along with all the promises which embrace us today, always have and always will bind us to one another across time and space and then some.
As they do all of us.
As they did Mary and Elizabeth on that day Mary ran to her cousin and in all the days that would follow.
And so it is that I wonder now how we do this still wherever we live, however we are called to serve, alongside whomever God has put beside us.
I wonder how we, like Mary and Elizabeth might do the same — not only acknowledging, but celebrating that God still works amazing wonders within us and through us, in spite of us sometimes, but also on occasion because of us. How do we grab another’s hand and pulling them close, invite them to feel it, too? If only for just a moment which will somehow last a lifetime…
We cannot know what will come next, just as Elizabeth and Mary could not fully: not the one with a lifetime of knowing by then, nor the one who had been gifted with wisdom beyond her years. We cannot know what joys and heartaches yet lie before us. For now, like them, we are blessed to have this. Simple and profound and powerfully hope-filled moments when new life ‘leaps within us’ and a friend sitting beside us may just be yearning to sense it, too, even when she didn’t see it coming.
Like I didn’t all those years ago.
And like I still don’t often times even now.
But still they come, don’t they?
Sometimes expected, sometimes not, as has been so for me in these last days…
- In the smiling face of a baby when the water is poured on his head, baptized in a particular time and place, just the start of all God has for him…
- In the voice of an old friend who calls unexpectedly on a hard day and you both find yourselves laughing and crying at the same time…
- In a moment of acknowledging the beloved humanity of the one across from you as you struggle to find common understanding…
- In the voice of one who has carried deep heartache for a lifetime who is now finally finding words…
- And on and on…
Are not all of these and so many more, though seemingly so small, still signs of the ways in which God is still working, bringing a promise of new life?
Isn’t this, in fact, life leaping within us?
No, indeed, like Mary and Elizabeth, we cannot fully know what will come next. Although by now I expect we know it will be joy and heartache both and sometimes both at the same time.
We cannot fully know what will come next, like those young almost pastors all those decades ago.
But when hope presents itself, like a little one leaping in the womb, we can place one another’s hands upon it.
And we can celebrate in the certain hope that God is not done yet.
- As you remember Mary’s haste-filled visit to Elizabeth now, what stands out for you?
- How do you see God at work in new life ‘leaping within’ even now?
- How does this enable you to take the next step in hope, even when you cannot possibly know what will come next?