I came for inspiration
I came looking for grace
And found my reflection
In every passing face
In everyone who gathered
Standing on that shore
Searching the horizon
Not knowin' what exactly for
Searchin' the horizon
For what we can't quite see
When all we've ever needed
Has been there all along inside of you and me
I wanna see you holding out your light
I wanna see you light the way
But whether everything will be alright
It's just a little soon to say
I didn't find much wisdom
When time was on my side
Too little information
Too much time to decide
I took a couple of wrong turns
It only takes you one
To send you down a lifetime
Of wondering what you might have done
Searching for a lifetime
For what you wanna see
When all we've ever needed
Has been there all along inside of you and me…
~ A Little Soon To Say
by Jackson Browne
There are places that only grace can go. There are places that don’t make sense, where no answers fit. Places of loneliness, of despair. Places of grief, of deep longing. Places of fretting, over-thinking, and looping fears. Places of pacing, places where it feels too dark to search out the ole North Star. Places of fits and starts, mostly fits. And to those places, somehow grace comes and finds us. Somehow this wondrous grace persists and pursues until we are known again. Somehow, someway grace seeks out these places and seeks out us.
Odd this time in which we are living. Where once my calendar held times for dinners and movies and golf tee times, now it looks pretty empty. The exception is now `zoom calls.’ Didn’t even know there was such a thing until the last six weeks. And now it has become my entire time for connecting with the folks I love.
Two zooms in the past week have graced me. My first one was with dear friends from Candler seminary days. Friends who “know where I am and know where I’ve been.” Old friends who no longer need the background story because we have come to be a part of one another’s story. Friends who listen with their hearts – and always have.
While catching up with them last week the notion of Wondrous Grace was named. We were talking about our days, these Pandemic days – and how life continues to unfold in the midst and mess of these days. We were talking about holding on’s and letting go’s. One dear friend was talking about marking an anniversary of grief and how in the midst of it, “Grace had happened. Wondrous grace had happened.” And in that moment, I was thankful for so many things. I was thankful for our showing up for one another. For our listening past what lies only on the surface. For giving time and space for what can come next, giving thanks for all of these – if we just allow our souls to catch up and to breathe. If we allow our souls to have a voice. Wondrous grace doesn’t fix anything – for me, for these days in which we are living – wondrous grace allows love to hold us, alone and together, wondrous grace holds us all.
Later it was time for our once-a-week family ZOOM call. It’s made up mostly of cousins in GA and IL and TX and WA and CA. In addition to the scattered cousins it also holds the generations on both sides of the cousins. It’s a once-a-week “I’m still here,” “you’re connected to me” call that my maternal grandmother initiated 700 years ago Sunday night calls to each of her three children. And (of course) in this Pandemic, Grandma Bobbee is guiding us in and through. So, we call. Never has it been the same gaggle. Different folks each week. Last week where there has been more than a dozen of us, there were five from the clan. At least one child from each of the three of Bobbee’s offspring. We checked in. We talked about what was helping us cope. We talked about what was getting us through. And I knew – deep in my bones, that my grandmother had led us to that very moment from all of those long-ago Sunday nights – to that Sunday night, because she knew at some time (LONG OFF in the future), we would need this. We would need one another. We would need the chance to experience grace-enough again. And that this – this hour ZOOMING would get us through.
Zoom calls are bringing life to me in unexpected ways in these Pandemic days. Wondrous grace enough for what was and is and what just may be. This wondrous grace meets us where we are. Like my old friend, Jackson Browne says, “Searchin' the horizon for what we can't quite see, when all we've ever needed has been there all along inside of you and me.” I am so very thankful that grace found me on a call or two. This wondrous grace found me again.
You know, if you would have told me a year ago, maybe even six months ago that it would be a common place occurrence to see most of the people you pass on the street wearing masks, I wouldn't have believed you. And yet it’s happened. And what’s really odd to me, but true, is that now there is an expectation for each and every one of us to be masked.
How quickly the world can turn on its head. How quickly what was up can become down, and what was down seems to just stay there. How quickly we somehow have adjusted to this new world. But I wonder… Do you know in what ways we have adjusted? Is this how we now imagine our world to be? How have we shifted so quickly to this new world, this new normal?
More than ever I am mindful now of how much it means to me to look people in the eyes. Now that we are masked, I am mindful of looking for some kind of expression, some kind of human contact. Now that our expressions are hidden from one another, it matters to me to pay attention to another person's eyes.
I think we owe it to one another to be mindful of what might be hidden behind the mask. I think it would be a great and significant act of kindness, for us to not assume anything of one another in these masked days. Is the person behind the mask afraid? Is the person behind the mask lonely? Is the person behind the mask grieving?
This is new territory for us. These Pandemic days seem to have moving borders and boundaries. These masks sometimes embody for me those boundaries. These Pandemic days have brought new mores and a new everyday language: COVID. Isolation. Social distancing. I know the words of social distancing in the dictionary will never have my picture underneath them. I know that I am not wired to isolate.
And I believe that these Pandemic days will not be forever. I believe that this will be a chapter in our lives, possibly one of the hardest, but just a chapter. So, while we are writing this current chapter, I think it’s important to be mindful of making this chapter our own. These are days that will carry their imprint on us quite possibly for the rest of our lives. These are days that are surely our shaping our children. It matters how we are mindful of these days, of one another, and of how we are in them.
For years, I have been holding onto Anne Lamott’s words of seeking kind eyes. Perhaps these words have never been more true or more welcomed. Because today, especially today I want to remember that others just might be seeking my kind eyes. They may not see my whole face, but in these old, weary eyes I hope they see my prayer for them – I hope they see my wish for their good health and well being. I hope they see – behind my mask - my prayer of compassion.