Psalm 146, 147 (Morning)
Psalm 111, 112, 113 (Evening)
Just this week, I was remarking to one of my friends that I was really annoyed that no one had given me the list of “things no one ever told me about middle age.” I’ve been struggling a little with various aches and pains, changes in my sleep patterns, and a whole host of minor annoyances. My doctor just laughs at me and says, “Maria, you’re not 25 anymore. We all love you because you don’t know that, but there it is.”
The truth is, we start to learn at a very young age, that everything that makes us feel comfortable in our own skin never stays the same. I suspect all of us, at one time or another, becomes annoyed that we weren’t given the list of what to expect in any changing situation in our lives. (Worse yet, we might well have been given at least part of the list, but we promptly said, “Oh, I don’t think this applies to me!”)
Yet, really, deep down inside, we know that change is a reality. We won’t retire with the same cadre of people who surrounded us when we started our job. If we’re in school, our classes are always changing and we’re always adjusting to new sets of expectations. Our relationships change because of illness, death, divorce, new babies, financial challenges, and geography. Our children, nieces, nephews, and “baby cousins” grow up. My gosh, even our grandchildren grow up!
Several of our readings today remind us in a variety of ways that nothing lasts forever. Although we never know how or when that’s going to happen, everything that’s familiar and comfortable to us now–pffft. Gone.
We humans, however, are creatures of habit. We crave familiarity even when we know we are in unfamiliar territory. Sometimes, we go to our Bibles and hope to find familiarity, yet even the Bible doesn’t necessarily cut us any slack when we are feeling the pressure and pain of those constant shifts from comfort and discomfort. One might wonder just where the Good News is in verses like Psalm 116, verse 3 (“When they breathe their last, they return to earth, and in that day their thoughts perish”), Isaiah 40, verse 7 (“The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.”), and Hebrews 1, verse 11 (“they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing.”) Oh, joy. We feel better already, right? NOT.
Ah, but there is Good News in there, all the same. Today’s readings also remind us that change is not just change for the sake of itself–it’s a subtle form of transformation, and if we allow ourselves to see it as transformation, we can at least find our place in it. The more overarching principle in our Epistle today is that God is the one constant that anchors all this change, and that anchor is solidly held by the last sentence in the first paragraph of our reading in John today–“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In the end, nothing–not even our fears, our discomfort, nor the times in our lives where we feel like every day is a walk through the Valley of Unease–can overshadow the constantly shining light of God.
When we are surrounded by the mortality of others and the glimpses of our own mortality, when things don’t seem to be going as we had planned them, John 1 is a wonderful reminder that hidden in all that mortal stuff, is immortality, and what seems like “the end” is never an end when it comes to our relationship to God.
We catch glimpses of that “non-end” all the time in the twists and turns of our lives. The ending of some relationships opens the door to relationships we never would have had, if that first relationship hadn’t ended. We might never find our true calling in the work world if we hadn’t been fired from our last job. We learn that our feelings of significant discomfort often fade, and new passions in our lives emerge. All of that is a window to that light that shines in the darkness. But guess what? No one gave us the list for that, either!
What is something in your life lately where you wish someone had “given you the list,” and how might God be working in that to a new “non-end?”
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