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His Name is Tomás

by Mary Domb Mikkelson

MaryDombMikkelson3His name is Tomás.  My next door neighbor, he is eleven years old.  His young arms are the ones that carry in my groceries because, as he told me when I once tried to give him a couple of dollars, “Oh, no, Miss Mary.  It’s what neighbors do.”  And, today, as he carried my bags in, he commented, “I’m glad I can help you.”

Wow!

After putting my groceries away today, I spent a few moments on Facebook, where I encountered “The Benedict Option,” a book review from The Opinion Pages of The New York Times.   By David Brooks, it took exception to the author’s view that Christians should “withdraw inward to deepen, purify and preserve their faith, ” should “secede from mainstream culture, pull their children from public school, put down roots in separate communities” – this, primarily it seemed, in reaction to the “threat to religious liberty” posed by LGBT activism.

Brooks pointed out that while “There is a beautiful cohesion to the monastic vocation…most people are dragged willy-nilly into life — with all its contradictions and complexities” and that “Many who experience faith experience it most vividly within the web of their rival loves — different communities, jobs, dilemmas”  They, he continued, “have faith in their faith. It gives them a way of being within the realities of a messy and impure world.”

I rather like both the “willy-nillyness” of life and wrestling with its “contradictions and complexities.”   And am not tempted to escape them by fleeing into the contemplative.

Take Lent, for example   Lent is, for me a dry season.

I know the outcome…I celebrate it.  “Christ the Lord is risen today!” and the accompanying hallelujahs say it all, creating the mother of all thin spaces/thin moments on Easter Sunday…a  treasure akin to that honored by Antoine de Saint-Exupery when he proclaimed “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”    The treasure of knowing God.  Of being joined with God.

And that’s where Tomás comes in… Tomás and many, many others…people, places, events, moments when good – and God “(a distinction without a difference”) – are seen, shared, known.  Moments even in the worst of times when hope triumphs.

Simplistic?  Maybe.  But for me it works whereas mystical, hypnotic, contemplative practices and devices come up short.  As William Langewiesche explained, “There are many forms of thirst.”

Some are slaked one way, some another.

Some by rebooting, even as are temperamental computers.

My daughter speaks of “God’s reboot – not once and done but that ever restless act of the Spirit seeking out the moments along the way where we step into the light so that God can be clearly seen by all.”

God and Jesus, she explains, kept quite busy rebooting lives – think Noah and the flood or the calling of fishermen to leave behind their boats and  become fishers of men.  “Very little,” she adds, remains as it was when God and Jesus come calling.”

Isaiah put it this way:
“And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”  (Isaiah 58:11)

I await the next reboot!

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