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I am not talking about the miraculous-shake-the-foundations sort of God’s presence that too often is presented to us in faith narratives. I am talking about the mundane daily presence of God that is revealed in the smallest gestures of every day conversations about things like pie, children, Drano, and dog odor eliminator.
Warning: Do not think for a moment I am a spiritually centered human being. I am a broken-nut-job always struggling to center myself in God’s love. The below story is a rare three days.
Tuesday: Nine loads of laundry, dead mini-van, new battery, clogged kitchen sink (no dishwasher), flooded basement, accumulating dishes, dog with bladder infection, dog pee spots all over carpets, three trays of lasagna.
Wednesday: More laundry, dirty dishes accumulating, dog escape, friend confesses they have an addiction problem, shampoo rugs, phone call from friend fighting leukemia, lasagna delivered and visit with friend recovering from a stroke, kitchen sink still plugged.
Thursday: Kitchen sink finally unplugged, laundry almost done, carpets dry, first load of dishes washing, basement still needs cleaning, writing instead.
Here are the details missing from the above list:
· The men who changed my battery were kind and we talked about our favorite pies to eat.
· My husband and Aunt helped me fold all the laundry.
· Three trays of lasagna were baked which meant a great meal for three families (not to mention I had enough money to buy the food in the first place).
· I had left over antibiotics to treat my dog.
· A handy friend showed up to fix my sink, working at it for two hours.
· Three friends called me on Tuesday having no clue what my days was like to just say hi, they loved me.
My bed was warm that night.
· A neighbor put my dogs back in the house.
· Someone trusted me enough to ask for help to end their addiction.
· My plumber handy friend returned to try to fix my sink again.
· A dog loving friend showed up with extra dog odor carpet spray.
· My dear friend Kimmy spoke these words over the phone to me: I’m going to survive because I love my children. Your friend who had a stroke will too, because she is a mother.
· Sat with friend who suffered a stroke and we laughed, cried, and she told me how she thanks God every day and then spoke these words: I am going to survive because my children need me.
· My husband bought me flowers.
I am glad Tuesday and Wednesday are behind me. I am worn out and am sick of house work. Yet my two exhausting days were strewn with God’s presence at every turn. I am not talking about the miraculous-shake-the-foundations sort of God’s presence that too often is presented to us in faith narratives. I am talking about the mundane daily presence of God that is revealed in the smallest gestures of everyday conversations about things like pie, children, Drano, and dog odor eliminator.
I noticed that something in me has shifted over the past few years. I was readily thankful on Tuesday and Wednesday for what was instead of what was not. To keep myself from bursting into frustrated tears,* I reminded myself out loud that I was not walking thirty miles in search of food at a refugee camp with my children clinging to me for safety. Instead, I was facing blessed first world problems. I am positive this shift in me is a result of my accumulated years now spent as a follower of Jesus. I am also positive that for me it has to do with Jesus, but that other spiritually wise folks I know live with gratitude after years spent practicing their own particular faith. I am also positive that it took me a while to arrive at this state of gratitude; it has been a journey with many accumulated miles of practicing gratitude before it became a way of living.
Something else happened on Wednesday. I am not sure what. Perhaps it was a result of gratitude on Tuesday that led me to Wednesday. But it was clear to me as I spoke with my three friends who are fighting addiction, cancer, and a stroke that God was ever so near. As the three spoke with me, I could feel God’s presence as a third person in the conversation. As I listened to the honest, intimate admission of an addict, as I heard the absolute resolve to survive and recover from cancer and a stroke, I knew that there was no other explanation in this terribly beautiful world where sinks clog, dogs pee, cars break down, and parents carry their children over borders to refugee camps, than a God who loves us.
Maybe this equation doesn't make sense, but to me it makes all the sense in this world.
Profoundly beautiful and terrifying love saturated world = Drano + honesty + addiction + odor remover + cancer + refugee camps + flowers + stroke + laundry + handy friend + lasagna + conversation + neighbor + car battery + pie + love.
*I am human, not spiritually superior. I was on the verge of crying many times on Tuesday and spoke candidly to my husband about the financial stress of all that went down, wondering just how we would pay for everything.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.