“Let it come as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.”
It seems I am surrounded by many people who are going through things…..illness, loss, grief, confusion, decisions big and small, change, transition. The list goes on and on. And while life is always made up of these threads that weave in and out causing feathery wings and bruise-like colors, there seems to be a greater proliferation of it all right now. It doesn’t help that our national life is fractured as well. Social and financial fear mongering keeps our nerve-endings raw from response. The hope for numbness looms large in our collective psyche and yet rarely comes.
All of this is compounded by the fact that the sky has been cloudy the last 22 days in Minnesota. This is the time of year when you really have to buy into the ‘quality of life’ message about our land of 10,000 lakes because the visual would send us all screaming for some border, north or south, east or west. There seems to be a cloud hanging over each waking moment of the day. Those of us who observe the season of Lent, a church rhythm meant to bring about introspection and penitence, have the perfect backdrop for this winter drama.
Yesterday as I was stopping into a hospital to check in on one of our dear ones, I had my head appropriately tucked into my neck, my ears surfing on my shoulders as I sought to keep out the biting wind. My eyes, like all the other walkers, were focused downward on the dirty, salty sidewalk. Just outside a bus shelter I caught sight of a pacifier dropped onto the ground, just laying there abandoned. My heart gave a little tug in my chest. “Someone is needing comfort someplace.”, I thought.
The sight of this little piece of molded plastic sent me back some years to the times I would search frantically in the night, sleep-deprived and stumbling to find the object that would comfort a crying child and send us both back to sleep. I laughed to myself as I remember the little stashes of these miracle-workers we had hidden in nooks and crannies of beds, car seats, drawers, diaper bags. The ability to provide comfort with such a tiny tool was of paramount importance.
Placing a pacifier in a crying infant’s mouth and allowing them to soothe themselves to sleep is an easy enough act. Other comforts don’t come quite so easy. Those I know who are struggling with health issues are searching for a comfort that often arrives in the right medication or the hopeful word of a physician. Many I know are still searching for employment or work that more appropriately fits their gifts. What can bring comfort to these bright, intelligent people? All I can offer is to walk with them, to pray for them, to listen.
So many people I know are walking the road with relatives, parents mostly, who are aging and losing the freedom they once knew. The feeling of being both child and parent holds them in a suspended animation for which they are not trained. How to comfort their lack of security and confidence, their desire to respect these ones who have given them life? If only there was a comfort blanket that could fall gently on the hands that hold, the hearts that break.
What brings you comfort? As I thought about the things that become my pacifier, I thought of the communities I am blessed to sit in. Those people who make me laugh, tell the truth and cut myself some slack, knowing I will deliver a platter of the same to them when needed. And then there is that morning sighting of the brilliant red of a cardinal defying the cold and drab view out my window. And of course, a good story, a blazing fire, the big, black dog looking expectantly into my eyes, a hand to hold,a steaming cup of coffee.
When all those fail there is always one deep breath. Then another. And another until the breath becomes prayer. This breathing rhythm is, perhaps, the original Comforter coming to rest within reminding us that, no matter what, we are really never alone.