Everyday I try to stop and recognize something beautiful. Sometimes it just hits me between the eyes, an incredible sunset, the vibrant yellows and flaming reds of autumnal trees, or even a quiet cup of coffee and the hum of my comfortable home. A smile from a daughter, the laughter of a son, and my beaker of blessings can runneth over.
Other days, well let’s just say, I’m reaching. My heart can be broken in a million different ways. Perhaps one of my children is behaving in a way that doesn’t reflect their best self and I wonder if the higher values I tried to instill didn’t “take.” I start to project that maybe I’m not such a great mother as I believe myself to be, and before I know it I’ve got that child and myself in some pretty dark places in my mind. (All of this within a matter of seconds). I start to believe that God can’t find me here. I am alone and even if God is really here, I am not comforted by any sense of presence.
That happened to me yesterday. When the morning light hit my face this morning, I was tempted to just put the pillow over my head. But my ingrained spiritual practices serve me well. Even though I felt disheartened and my spirit ached, I got out of bed and prayed to keep my words few today and to remember to be the bearer of joy, believing that sooner or later that which I give will be the gateway of joy for me as well.
And then I came across the Hebrew Bible story of Jacob. How he ended up running away from home because he had tricked his twin brother out of his rightful inheritance, and then his brother had become enraged, and now his very life was in danger. Sleeping on a rock as his only pillow in the middle of the desert, Jacob dreams of a ladder set up on the earth, with the top reaching all the way to heaven. Angels ascend and descend luminously. God was there too, promising to be with him and to bring him to safety. Jacob awoke changed.
Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, An Altar in the World, re-interpreted this story for me so they it fed and re-inspired me today. Her words reminded me that the divine can be made manifest in any minute and amongst the most dysfuntional of families:
“Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars. Jacob’s nowhere, about which he know nothing, turned out to be the House of God. Even though his family had imploded, even though he had made his brother angry enough to kill him, even though he was a scoundrel from the word go–God decided to visit Jacob right where he was, though Jacob had not been right about anything so far and never would be. God gave Jacob vision, so Jacob could see the angels going up and down from earth to heaven, going about their business in the one and only world there is. The vision showed Jacob something he did not know. He slept in the House of God. He woke at the gate of heaven. None of this was his doing. The only thing he did right was to see where he was and say so. Then he turned his pillow into an altar before he set off, praising the God who had come to him where he was.”
Thank you and Amen.