Like Paul Harvey Used to Say...
A head cold arrived on Friday afternoon, just in time for the weekend. It was insistent on sticking around; not even my patented OJ-whiskey-ginger ale cold-fighting cocktail could keep it at bay. And so I spent this lovely (or so I hear) autumn weekend inside, intermittently napping, drinking juice, and watching old episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix (God bless Netflix). I cancelled fun plans and had to table all the trip preparations that needed doing. I just sat, weak and sniffling, living vicariously in Tina Fey’s version of New York.
When Monday came around and I was still sick, I went to work anyways, because we don’t get Columbus Day off and because I had no sick days to use. I was grumpy. And as I sat in my cubicle, stewing in my own sick juices (gross!), I got even grumpier. Because isn’t that how things go when you’re sick? Everything just seems worse.
And I thought about the small vicissitudes in my life (i.e. having a cold, being at work, being alone) and the larger grievances around me: learning that a family friend passed away at age 42, after struggling with illness for her entire adult life; the hard things that other friends are carrying; plus this week’s top news items (toxic sludge spills, teen suicides, random violence).
Even trip-planning was bringing me down – as I researched the history and attractions of Budapest, Vienna, and Krakow, it was impossible to overlook how each of these cities has been scarred by fascist / communist regimes and by the Holocaust. The Jewish communities in these cities (at one time, nearly 25% of the population of Krakow) no longer live there, because they no longer live anywhere.
The world was looking bleak to me. I was beginning to wonder if Liz Lemon wasn’t right, when she said (at the end of Season 4, Episode 3, right before Jack beheads a ventriloquist dummy in Stone Mountain, GA) - “All God’s children are terrible.”
Bleak. Maybe it was the cold talking – everything seeming worse than it was. Or maybe it was caffeine withdrawal making me cranky (I haven’t had coffee in 3 days! Send help!). Or maybe it was just a resurfacing of an age-old question: How do we live, acknowledging the suffering and injustice and unanswered questions all around us, without becoming a Debbie Downer?
Answer: I don’t really know. It’s not an age-old question for nothing.
But I caught a glimpse of a possible answer last night. As I was speaking to a Wise Counsel, sniffling through my list of personal and global woes, she said to me, “But you know this isn’t the end of the story.” And she was right. I do know that.
My cold, my job, my life stage are annoying, but they’re not the end of my story. Destructive political regimes can do horrific things, but their days are always numbered – no one system of government is the end of the story. And the family friend – her illness, her untimely death – that is not the end of her story, because I believe her story continues (and improves!) now that she is in heaven.
We may not always get to see the end of a particular story – it may not be resolved neatly in this life. But maybe the answer is (in part) to do our best to acknowledge the pain around (and in) us, to work to bring love to bear on these difficult situations, and to trust that Jesus is going to write a better end to the story than we can imagine.
This all feels heavy, in a 1960’s “Whoa, man, that’s heavy” kind of way. Not as in a bodyguard, gun-toting heavy. Nor in an authoritative heavy way – I’m not an authority. I’m just a girl with a head cold, who had way too much time to think and watch 30 Rock this weekend.
Apologies for the heaviness. Here’s to the rest of the story…