Over the past two weeks, I’ve visited two people in the hospital. The first was a baby, days old and fighting for his life. The second was an older man, with many days behind him, dying of cancer. Both moments, both people, were utterly beautiful, wrapped around tense moments of fear.
In this kind of sacred space, the air is thin. We hold our breath and we whisper, not because anyone tells us to, but because we are hoping to hear the footfalls of God in the room. The ancients called these kinds of moments thin spaces, where the veil that seems to separate the human from the divine is paper instead of brick.
Most likely, you are living in a different moment, one that is filled with work and dishes and relationships and plans — and problems, of course. Your moments are so very full. But just a scrape off the top layer reveals how empty we all feel. It doesn’t take much to send me spinning into a free fall of anxiety.
A few weeks ago, we had friends over to celebrate a birthday, and as usual, it was chaos. The kids tore around the house, all sticky fingers and mischief, beautiful and messy and altogether very good.
And then the refrigerator stopped working. I’m still not sure what happened, except the lights went off and the water dispenser stopped working. I was about to leave for a concert with a friend, but I knew I had to fix this problem before I left.
Suddenly, my life was awful. I got irrationally angry. I fumbled through the owner’s manual, looking for anything that might help me fix it. I got irritated with anyone who tried to help. My friend suggested that we pull the refrigerator out from the wall, unplug it and then plug it back in, which of course I thought was completely ridiculous, so we didn’t do that. Instead, I went back to the owner’s manual, which only mocked me.
The truth is I felt alone and scared in that very ordinary moment. It brought something up in me that is wide open and raw, a gulf of fear that is way bigger than a refrigerator. The fear is that it will all run out, it will all stop working, there will never be enough, and it could happen at any moment. We are slowly starving. The irony is not lost on me that the place which holds my nourishment suddenly stopped working.
Well, it turns out these moments are paper thin as well, only we don’t whisper, so we don’t hear and we don’t see.
Here’s what I want to tell you, every one of you: God is with you and for you in every moment of your life. When you are days old. When you are breathing your last. And every glorious and indecent moment in between. When your refrigerator doesn’t work and when your marriage doesn’t work. God does not stop working, even in the maddening chaos of unknown pain and disappointment.
We all grew up believing God is only for us if we were for God first, an elitist club you can only join by getting the secret password right. Or that God is only with us when we show up for God at some special time or in some holy place. It shouldn’t surprise us that we would come up with so secular an understanding of the Sacred. But it should surprise us that we don’t recognize it.
Here’s what the prophet Isaiah says to every one of us, ushering us out of our fear and inviting us into something nourishing and tangible, true and available:
If you are thirsty, come here;
come, there’s water for all.
Whoever is poor and penniless can still
come and buy the food I sell.
There’s no cost—here, have some food, hearty and delicious,
and beverages, pure and good.
I don’t understand why you spend your money for things that don’t nourish
or work so hard for what leaves you empty.
Attend to Me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest, most delectable of things.
Listen closely, and come even closer. My words will give life,
for I will make a covenant with you that cannot be broken, a promise
Of My enduring presence and support like I gave to David.
— Isaiah 55:1-3, The Voice Translation
It’s all right there for us, the table is set, with name cards that lead us to our place at the table.
You, him, her, them. Us. All of us.
Listen closely, and come even closer.
God is for you. Back then, right now, and forever.