Every night at my daughters’ bedtime, after the stories, the prayers, and the songs, I lay the palm of my hand on Lucy’s then Sylvie’s head. I bless them: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, make his face to shine upon you in the darkness, and bring you safely into the morning,” and as I trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads, “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The best part of my day is hearing their little voices reply, “Amen.” I kiss their soft cheeks and remind them of my love for them and tell them that they’d better not get out of bed — which never works.
As is the case every night, this all took place last night. Afterward, I logged into a Zoom Happy Hour (thanks 2020) with the Young Adults of CSMSG. Sure enough, I heard those little feet padding down the stairs. I excused myself from the awkwardness of social distancing to investigate. I found Lucy. “Dad,” she said, “You didn’t give me my blessing.” The calculus of parenting kicked in: Am I being played or did she really forget? I parried, “I gave you your blessing, now go to back to bed.” Success, so I thought.
She countered, “But I don’t remember."
I resisted the temptation to appease her nearly-six-year old heart and simply repeat this little family rite. Instead I told her, “That’s okay. What’s important is that we have God’s blessing even when we forget.”
Here we find ourselves, sheltering-in-place, trying to flatten the curve. And I know that I am not the only one asking God, “What in the sam hill is going on here?” One of my heroes, Annie Dillard, writes in her short-but-mighty book
Holy the Firm
I know only enough of God to want to worship him, by any means ready to hand. There is an anomalous specificity to all our experience in space, a scandal of particularity, by which God burgeons up or showers down into the shabbiest occasions, and leaves his creation’s dealings with him in the hands of purblind and clumsy amateurs.
You might have it all figured out, but I am a clumsy amateur when it comes to following Jesus. I keep asking God if he’s sure this is the right way and when he turns to me with smiling eyes, I am compelled to follow—even into the unknown. “There are no experts in the company of Jesus. We are all beginners, necessarily followers, because we don’t know where we are going,” writes the late pastor Eugene Peterson. And I can’t think of more humble and stalwart words. What a relief to know that I am not an expert and that expertise is not what is required of me! It is only faith — faith that God loves me and you even when we forget it. Faith in a God so good that I can’t help but follow. In the midst of a global pandemic, what it looks like to follow Jesus is in some ways more clear than ever: give, proclaim, pray. In other ways, we are having to navigate and re-navigate. In all of this there is One who remains the same.
When I was in seminary, I was never taught terms such as “flatten the curve,” or “shelter in place,” but I was told of the covenant faithfulness of God. And God’s faithfulness bored a hole deep into my heart. Though I am a clumsy amateur, I hold fast to God's covenant faithfulness. Even when I forget it, He is still there holding fast to me; holding fast to you.
Until next week and until we are all back together again, I am
Your servant in the Lord,