I am sitting in St. David's Episcopal Church in downtown Austin at dusk, the city bustling outside, otherworldly silence yawning and stretching here in this mahogany and colored glass covered chapel, candles burning, altar painted in pastels, "holy, holy, holy" embroidered in gold on green silk, the weighty smell of incense lingering in the air.
Men and women stand in robes before me and begin to sing in the most ethereal of voices, light and heavy, round, true, their voices the only interruption to the thick, divine quiet, each note an arrow, piercing not an absence but a presence, the music and the silence engaged in the most perfect skirmish. Every rising melody sounds like victory. And every pause does too.
This music belongs to God. I close my eyes and think, "This is holy."
I am sitting at Shake Shack dipping crinkle cut fries in ketchup. I'm talking and listening to friends who do beautiful work in the kingdom of God, friends newly married but old in faith. We're laughing about days off and celebrating the joys of being ministry partners, and the words and laughs come easily and I am not at all uncomfortable. Cars drive by, their tires splashing through deep puddles and the sound seems a little like waves at the beach.
And then my daughter screams from the table behind me and I see adults lunging toward her and she's yelling my name and bleeding and in the chaos of an entire restaurant looking and whispering and reaching to help, I realize she's been bitten by a dog, the puppy she'd been petting for the last ten minutes, a dog who seemed like a friend. I scoop her up and rush her to the bathroom and we wipe away the blood and see the mark which is small and not deep, fielding help from the Shake Shack people and the bystanders and everyone. We return to the table and the dog owner is distraught, apologizing again and again, writing down her name and number "in case of infection," offering her dog's shot records... And my husband and I feel terrible this has happened. Apologies flow like twin rivers of grace and mercy.
And I think, of the meal and this moment, friends and kind strangers, "This is holy."
I am standing in my bathroom with the closet open, a hose at my feet, looking at a broken, busted water heater, wondering if I should brave the cold shower. I am thinking of broken things and how there are many in this house and some are my fault because I could fix them but I haven't. I'm thinking of how many times a day I must choose which broken thing to fix and which to ignore for now.
I am angsty in the car with my husband. We talk about money and how it's not for keeping. How, even if you try to hold onto it you can't. We go to Home Depot and walk up and down the aisles looking for a hot water heater and the one we need is only online and we walk out empty handed, five days of cold showers ahead of us, and he puts his arm around my waist and I think about how later tonight we'll lay in bed and kiss and laugh about how sometimes things are hard.
I think, looking over at my partner driving our truck with the cracked windshield, "This is holy."
I thought tonight at that compline service at St. David's about how rarely we entertain silence, how most of our moments happen in the current of chaos, and we have no space or time to see, to stand back from a moment and assess it, weigh it, scrawl a label on the box in which we stuff it. And so most moments float away from us before we even know what they were like...
I look back over my days sometimes and see smears, smudges of errand-running, to-do list checking, email responding. I figure somewhere in there I spent time with my kids. I'm sure along the way I was kind to a stranger or helpful to someone I know or patient with my husband. I think maybe God blessed me. But I can't make out the details.
Other days, I make space. I slow the pace. I turn down the volume on the chaos. And I try to see the life I'm living. I pay attention. I listen. I watch.
Always I'm struck by the abiding, everywhere presence of God and the holiness of every moment in a life lived under His reign in the freedom of His grace and in the light of his law.
Every God-shaped second proves holy.
I grab my sharpie and scrawl across the labels, box upon box of memories and moments...
Holy, Holy, Holy