I wrote this a year ago. It was a few days after Newtown and amid people having fun with that supposed Maya prophecy about the end of the world. It's been on my mind as we remember what happened on that terrible December 14. As humorist Andy Borowitz ruefully put it recently: "We are approaching the one-year anniversary of doing nothing in response to Newtown."
For the last few days it has felt a bit like the world is falling apart. It’s times like this, thinking about the people of Newtown, that I remember the line from “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”:
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!
Only I walk around muttering it to myself in disbelief:
Christ was born for this? For this?!?? Seriously, God: THIS world?
* * *
It’s weird, what finally drives it home: I have a first grader in the house. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection right away. Maybe it didn’t happen until I was ready for it. Sunday night, at our church’s Blue Christmas service, I read the names of those who were killed at Sandy Hook. And their ages.
Six. Six. Six.
Then Monday I put together some notecards that Margaret designed, and typed on the back: “Artwork by Margaret Dana, age 6.”
Today, I had a sheet of wallet-sized photos of her, the school picture, and I’m cutting out individual smiling shots. Margaret after Margaret after Margaret, perfect and dimpled and alive.
And I think of the sheets of pictures of children who are no more.
It is unbearable.
* * *
Things have been ridiculously hectic lately. Pastoring and purchasing and shipping and baking and preaching and mothering. Sabbath moments have been hard to come by. And then I remember what I said again and again in the book:
Today is their childhood.
What does that mean? There are still dishes to be done. But the focus is different, the pace is slowed, the ears are open. Marjorie Williams writes about the experience of being a mother with a life-threatening illness:
Having found myself faced with that old bull-session question (What would you do if you found out you had a year to live?), I learned that a woman with children has the privilege or duty of bypassing the existential. What you do, if you have little kids, is lead as normal a life as possible, only with more pancakes.
That is our spiritual work, post-Newtown. Yes, we work for peace. We advocate for policies that curb our culture’s violent ways. We speak up for the vulnerable and care for the disturbed and the isolated.
But we also cup one another’s faces in our hands, sticky with maple syrup.
My last obligations went out by FedEx just a while ago. There is a small handful of loose ends left. I will tie those up, or not. But the rest of this week and next is for my loved ones and for me. Join me, in embracing and savoring those things that really matter. If this be the end of the world, let us toast to life and richness and delight.