Thursday, February 2, 2012

In which I go all theological on you

I'm a big believer in paying attention to the good things in life. Not because I'm a Pollyanna, but because I'm not: there are times when negative emotions will grab your life and run with it, if you let them. The way to stop that is to work at seeing -- and remembering -- the good stuff in each day. After all, it's there. Somewhere.

Most days, taking note of the positives adds enough perspective to tone the negatives down to a manageable level. This is true even when you've got a 15 year old in Major Depression with no health insurance, an unemployed husband, uncertainty over where your kids will go to school, perplexity over how you're going to make ends meet, and the emotional tenor of the family seems to vary between frazzled and freaked out.

But this past week remembering the good things wasn't enough, and I had a handful of rough days. Bleak, dark, heavy days. Days when it seemed like the troubles were endless and insolvable and I was going to crack. One morning I said,"Lord, I feel like I've forgotten how to succeed." I got an answer to that right away. It was, "That's okay. There are other things you can learn now."


This is why faith is good for you. In its own weird way, it helps.

On top of everything else on my plate, on February first I was scheduled for jury duty. I haven't had to go since I sat on a Federal jury for three solid months, back when I was single. But since we won't be homeschooling next year, I didn't feel I could ask for an exemption. So I was planning on serving... up until last Thursday, when I realized that this was a really, really bad time to lose a couple of days. I went online to reschedule, only to discover that I needed to have postponed a week in advance. Missed it by a day.

The church, not the court
Andrew told me I could still go in person to postpone, so on Wednesday I dragged myself downtown to the Supreme Court building. I was almost there when I realized a) I was 15 minutes early, and b) a lovely church was nearby. I detoured to the church, which is one about which I have particular memories, and went in for ten minutes. It was so unbelievably quiet that the silence muffled even the cacophony in my head.

I sat in a pew and stared rather blankly at the front of the church, letting nothing fill my mind. It was great. It was like breathing again. After a while my eyes started to focus, and this is what I saw:

I mused for a bit on how, when one looks at a cross, one sees different things at different times. If you are Protestant and look at a crucifix, you are struck by how stark and uncomfortable it is. If you are a Catholic and look at a plain cross, you are struck by its emptiness. And on this morning I was struck by the shadows. For look: the shadows are different than the cross itself.

I looked at the shadows, and realized that though the shadows were created by the crucifix, they were actually a lumpy shape. They were related, but not the same. And I wondered how many times we think we have our eyes fixed fully on Christ and instead are focused on his shadow. We're close, but not as close as we think.

I wondered how many times we try to take up the shadow of our crosses instead of the crosses we're given, and then we wonder why we struggle.

I wondered at how many things there are to wonder about with the cross, while it hangs there: silent, waiting, hoping, blessing.

And then I smiled in the silence, and said a prayer, and went off to wait in line to see the County Clerk to postpone my jury duty. And instead of feeling like I'd crammed something else into my day, I felt as if the world was light again. And there was hope.


  1. Wow, this is great reflection for me. You surely have a talent for digging deeper and seeing meaning. Today "how many times we think we are focused firmly, but are instead focused on shadow" will stay with me....a great compass.

  2. Ps. Beautiful blue sky over that church....are you sure that is February in NY?

  3. That is a pondering thought, what am I focusing on, when I think my focus is geared toward faith, but really my faith is still in the shadows. Thank you.

  4. excellent. and it IS a question that'll stick with me, at least while my memory captures today... am i studying on Christ or his shadow? hmmm.

  5. Andrew & Julia Attaway,
    I have been reading Daily Guidepost for 7 years and love your family. I am
    sorry that this is a difficult time for you. I have had difficult times in the past. I realized later that God was helping me. I wish I had the answer for
    your needs, but I have no doubt God will guide you through.
    With love and prayers for you and your family,
    Jeanne L. Hamilton

  6. Have been thinking of you this week. This post answers at least one question I had. Praying for you now.

    Laura, anonymous because of Open ID glitches

  7. You and your family are in my prayers.

    I am young in my Christian journey (though not in age) and you inspire and teach me.

  8. Julia and Andrew,

    I have followed your lives and devotions in Daily Guideposts since 1997 with the exception of last year when I didn't buy the book. I am delighted to find this blog, and saddened to learn of all your troubles. Sometimes it is hard to keep the faith when things are tough, but if we give up our faith, then we have nothing. Hoping and praying for better days for all of you.

  9. I'm glad you found some peace that day. Your strength is incredible, and inspirational.