Last night we arrived back in Portland for another stretch with Grandpa and Nana Haub. True to Haub form, we ended up in the ER in the middle of the night last night: Doug has been coming down with an increasingly nasty cold and last night it became unbearable. They determined he just has a bad virus that will have to work its way through his system. The kids and I show symptoms too and I am praying that they don’t worsen.
It feels unjust to get sick on holiday. Yet as far as I can remember, it has always happened! The reality is that vacation days are no more sacred than any other, and while it would be nice if trial were somehow suspended for their duration, that is not the way life works. As my spirit grumbled a bit about this yesterday, I was reminded of the way that I can feel slighted, cosmically, when things fall short of my hopes or expectations.
When Mercy was only a few months old, Doug and I had to share a room with her for a week because we had house guests. Having us in the room caused her to wake up and fuss repeatedly, and after the first two nights Doug and I realized that we needed to just let her fuss without going over to her crib and picking her up every time. This was hard for me and at some point I went and just sat in the bathroom, and as I sat there on the floor I prayed. After a few minutes of praying, I suddenly became aware of something on my leg. I opened my eyes and looked down and to my horror saw a giant waterbug (picture the biggest, nastiest reddish cockroach imaginable) making its way up the leg of my shorts. I screamed, jumped up and did a frenzied dance and the bug scampered away.
I remember feeling traumatized by the bug (I am not a bug person, to say the least), but on top of that feeling betrayed by God, like how could you allow that vicious thing to attack me WHILE I WAS PRAYING. That moment has since served as a reminder for me that life with God does not abide by my categories or expectations.
I recently got an email from a loved one where she posed an important question, saying: “Some days, though, I wonder whether we would recognize the phenomenon if God called our bluff and upped and sent an answer. He has such strange taste in wrapping paper.”
I know that I too often find myself looking for the things of God with a perspective too clouded by a limited understanding or corrupted imagination. It is too easy now to see a savior lying among animals or executed as a criminal and forget the absurdity that made these things recognizable to only a very few at the time. I remember a conversation with a friend who suggested that Jesus could return in much the same way that he arrived: hidden, disguised. I was offended by this suggestion. Clearly the scriptures tell of a glorious king, returning to claim rightful lordship over all things. Did not those awaiting a messiah, those who denied Jesus, say the same?
Strange wrapping paper, indeed.