“Give us this day our daily bread,” we teach the children to pray.
We go through the prayer, line by line, sorting out words like hallowed and trespasses. And then we make it to the honorary verse of dinner tables everywhere.
“We’re asking for the things we need for today,” we tell the kids. I can see the kids’ thoughts behind their eyes: laptops, iPods, to do well on the test. My mind wanders, too, away from bread. Give us this day the money for the rent, the money for the student loans, the money for the car repairs.
The things we need for today, yes. But first of all, we are asking for food, for bread. We are asking for the things that will nourish us and keep our bodies strong.
This is the day that so many call “Low Sunday.” People are worn out after the extravaganza of Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
I get the feeling.
It’s still Easter, yes. But the alleluias are quieter, subtler. And that’s okay.
“It is not enough to celebrate Easter and say, ‘Christ is risen.’ It is useless to proclaim this unless at the same time we can say that we have also risen, that we have received something from heaven. We must feel appalled when the tremendous events that took place, the death and resurrection of Jesus, are proclaimed again and again and yet actually nothing happens with us. It has no effect.” -Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, in Bread and Wine
The day after Easter, I am not sure what to do.
On Easter, I rise.
We go to church. We shout our alleluias, we sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Afterwards, we feast. I cook a turkey for Easter dinner, my first ever, won in a trivia contest. (Don’t ask.) Josh and I watch basketball with some friends, eat turkey and potatoes cooked in cream and carrot cake, drink good beer and good wine.
And we go to bed, and then it’s back to life the way it was, before the Lenten disciplines, before weird lifestyle changes or diets or food given up. Christ is risen, and things are back to normal.
It is Easter, the time of alleluia.
The time where I and some others gather and sing songs about resurrection, early in the morning on the first day of the week. It’s the time of holy foolishness, when we sing the praises of a man who we say is God, who was dead and alive again.
The sun is sinking in the sky as I watch the waves roll in.
It is October. We’ve been Southerners-turned-Californians for a month. It is hot outside, hotter than I thought it would be. I am looking for a job.
I have been looking for a job every day. I sleep too late. I go to the public library. I dig through the bargain bins at the grocery store, see how much food I can buy with twenty-five dollars. I play fetch with the cat. I walk around the labyrinth of graduate student apartments until the midday heat is too much.
And I look for a job.
It’s been just a month, but I am already panicked. I keep ten browser tabs open. Temp agencies, Craigslist ads, calls for medical study volunteers, human resources from all the area colleges. Mint.com, which makes me more panicked with its angry red bars that mean there’s more money going out than coming in. I feel helpless. I have no idea how people stand unemployment for years.
Josh comes in the door as I am walking back and forth, bedroom to kitchen to living room to spare room. “I need to get a job,” I tell him. “I still don’t have a job.”
What we need is here. –Wendell Berry
Four and a half months ago, we drove our boat of a Buick through the desert and into San Diego. It was the last leg of our cross-country trip. Two weeks, 3000-some miles.
“Do you want to stop for lunch in Arizona?” Josh asked me. “No,” I told him. “I just want to get there.”
We had waited to be here for six months, since Josh accepted the offer to study at University of California, San Diego. And even though we didn’t know where here was then, we had waited to be here for years. A place where I could be in ministry, where Josh could study and teach. Where we could be together, both doing the work we had been called to do.
We pulled into a space at the grad student apartment complex. Opened our door with our key. Moved in the few boxes that we had fit in our Buick. And we began again here.
Sometimes I have been good at being here, at being where I am.
I had nightmares after Newtown.
Some of it is the anxiety surrounding my first Christmas on staff at a church. But most of it is the news, with its stories of children hiding in closets and gunshots fired in school. I went to sleep and dreamed about children being abused, hurt, and me not able to stop it. I woke up, heart racing.
“It was like a nightmare,” people said after Newtown, “the worst thing you could imagine. But we were awake.”
I have always loved the poetry of the 121st Psalm. “He who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will never slumber or sleep.” But now I shivered. God was awake for all of it. Who could stand to be awake for this, twenty children gunned down in school?
Newtown. Aurora. Tucson. I realized it then: All of God’s nightmares are waking nightmares.
Happiness always seemed shallow and selfish to me. And for the longest time, it seemed impossible.
I still haven’t made up my mind. There are more important things, in my opinion. Love, for instance, and sacrifice. Taking up your cross and following me. But misery itself is not love. There is no special virtue in misery, and it is a vice for people with scars on their wrists or their souls. It is easy, too easy, to sink into sadness. It is too easy to die on a cross that no one asked me to, that will bring life to no one.
To seek out the peace, quiet the shoulds, empty my hands, and live–that is the hard thing. That is sometimes the sacrifice, the thing that feels like the cross.
I can feel my soul getting thin.
That spring, I begin to know how I feel. For a few months, I rest. I stop the coffee. I stop the shoulds. I eat breakfast and lunch. I drink water and take my pills. I sing and dance and write three things. I stop freaking out, as much as I can, because I can’t afford to. A sermon or a paper or a perfect dinner is not worth a breakdown.
It’s as if the dial’s turned just slightly. At first, there is radio static. Then, I can hear myself, clear as day. I can hear what I think, what I feel. I begin to think simple things: This cake smells good. Those leaves are lovely.
I ran my first 5K two months ago. “What was your time?” was everyone’s first question.
“Slow,” I said, smiling. I didn’t tell them how long. “But I finished.”
I finished. I watched the Olympics a few months later, as muscled women in uniforms ran. It took them half the time to run the 10K as it took me to run my 5.
I’m thin, but I’m slow. After eight weeks of Couch to 5K, my sides still ached as I jogged. I tried to ration my water, breathe right. But I still panted. I stopped too often, bent over, put my hands on my knees, and breathed heavy. I felt like I might throw up.
And I finished.