Sunday, January 18, 2009

Everyday Life: God and Little Old Ladies

These days it seems like our chapel could double for a rehabilitation ward. We seem to have had a rash of injuries, surgeries and medical problems lately. The folks who are temporarily or permanently incapacitated seem to overwhelm those of us who are still relatively intact mentally and physically.

To some extent this is temporary, a number of people have problems that will heal pretty quickly, but the deeper reality is that we are an aging community. Like most monasteries and religious communities our average age keeps increasing and the number of women entering isn’t enough to replace those who die. On bad days it seems like we are becoming a retirement facility for little old ladies and there isn’t much of a future for our monastery.

But then I realize that God has a very special regard for little old ladies, in fact God frequently uses little old ladies to change the world. This is very much in keeping with God’s deeply strange sense of humor. God likes to turn things upside down and inside out. God seems to be averse to the idea of the “way things are supposed to be.” I mean any God who can save the world by allowing the Son to die a shameful death does not think in conventional ways.

So it fits that God uses little old ladies to shake up the world. Sarah was barren, she was old, she no longer even dreamt of having children and yet through Isaac a great nation was born. Hannah was a little feistier, she kept going to the Temple and railing at God, so full of longing that she sounded drunk when she prayed. Elizabeth was a woman vindicated, she knew shame and she knew the part she would play in bringing about a radical new world order. Anna saw her patience rewarded, decades of waiting in the Temple were fulfilled in the sight of the divine child.

These are the little old ladies who set the world upside down. Little old ladies who were barren in a society that judged the value of women according to how many male children they could bear. Little old ladies who had faith in God when they had nothing else. Little old ladies who knew that God uses what is little, and marginal and unexpected in the world to turn the world inside out.

So I look at our chapel, at all the little old ladies, at the motley crew that is our community, a community getting fewer, and frailer and older, and I rejoice. I rejoice because God has a special soft spot for little old ladies who are barren. I rejoice because God often chooses little old ladies who the world has written off to give birth to the new reality of God in the world. I rejoice and I begin to feel the stirring of birth pangs.

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