I took some time, during this craziest time of my year, to make a silent retreat. It was not my first choice of weekends. Actually, it wasn’t even on my list of chosen dates. But after asking for nearly every weekend between the end of August and the end of February, the only weekend that had an opening was Halloween weekend. God’s decidedly questionable sense of humor: Come spend time with Me. How about Mischief Night?
I had four days of silence to pray, to read, to write, and mostly to listen. Except for Sunday, which was Mischief Night. God likes surprises. I hate surprises – as in with a capital H. After taking my morning tea back to my room, the last thing in the world I would have expected was a knock at the door and an order to leave the property for an undetermined length of time. Bizarre circumstances landed me and three nuns on the front porch of a home about a mile away and, by lunchtime, I was at a diner having lunch with 15 Catholic nuns of at least three different orders. My private silent retreat had given way to a lively discussion about ordaining women and the election. By the time lunch was over, we were allowed to return and I was back in the silence of my own room. Less than an hour before that knock on the door, I had been writing about the lovely energy that radiated from that same group of nuns. It spread across the dining hall like sunlight. To have ended up chatting with them over lunch under what was referred to as ‘never happened before’ circumstances was definitely God’s mischief.
The following day was Halloween and also the day I was heading home. I stood outside and watched the sun come up, soaking in the silence and watching the light explode across the water. I had my tea and then met with my director one last time before packing up to go home, carrying with me graces I had never anticipated. By nightfall, I was at the top of my little dead end street with my teenagers dressed in spooky costumes, playing creepy music, scaring some adults, and handing out candy to the neighborhood kids. The shifting of gears was little surreal but isn’t all of life about shifting gears? We juggle. We balance. We shift and shift again.
Over these last two weeks, shifting gears has taken on whole new meaning. My house has known elation as my Mom’s beloved Cubs finally won a World Series, ending her nearly 83 year wait. We saw large-scale celebratory gatherings in Chicago and wished we were there singing Go Cubs Go. A week later, we have known shock and trepidation as Donald Trump won the White House and incidents of violence and intimidation have broken out around the country. We’ve seen protest marches, some peaceful and some devolving into riots. I have friends and family who are happy with the election results and I have many friends and family who are deeply afraid of many things that an all-Republican government could bring. But most frightening of all is the sense that white supremacist groups and even racist individuals are feeling emboldened by this election. When I read that the Ku Klux Klan is throwing a victory parade because they feel this president-elect is a savior for the white race in this country, I am deeply alarmed. These are turbulent days. Evening has indeed come and we must all be on guard that, no matter which side we stand on, violence and intimidation must not become a part of our national norm. I find myself re-reading the sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church must speak is that no midnight long remains. The weary traveller by midnight who asks for bread is really seeking the dawn. Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come…Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.
And so we shift gears. Baseball and Halloween are forgotten. We wait. We watch. We pray. We stand with those who are afraid. God is a God of surprises and sometimes mischief, but God is also our steadfast hope. So long as we stand for what is right and just, we will not stand alone. Evening has come. But morning will follow as it has since the very beginning of Creation.