I have a friend who lives with a chronic health issue. They traverse a litany of medical incidents which range from small, irritating interruptions, through to life threatening emergencies which sneak up without warning. I fear that one day I shall find they have run out of luck, perhaps having dismissed one more ache or pain, not having realised it was a warning of something worse. I'm twenty years older. If you require a 65 year old to ride a thousand kilometres over the weekend, I'm interested. I'll even volunteer for another trip the next weekend.
Despite all their physical ailments, my friend hurtles through life: full of energy, creative, charismatic, seemingly inexhaustible; they are an extrovert's extrovert. Me? At some point I do not choose, and can rarely predict, the brain says, "No. Stopping now." And it does. For weeks. And longer. I can't read my bank statement— well, I can, but I can't make sense of it to know if I need to pay money. Urgent tasks, even a simple phone call, are suddenly insurmountable. Life closes in on me; I sit or I ride. People, and the demands of people, are too much. This introvert's introvert becomes even more withdrawn. Words disappear, energy fades, sleep stops— despite the exhaustion.
Another friend grew up in the most appalling circumstances. Once, when we were talking, they mentioned something a parent had done to them, quite casually, in the way we might remember something we saw riding home yesterday evening, and mention it at tea. I had to stand up and walk around for a couple of minutes; nothing surprises me anymore, but sometimes I am shocked. That friend lives with the consequences of a lifetime of abuse. I've never understood how they can still be alive; we both nod to the saying, "as much good luck as good management." And yet they have an energy and zest for life which I envy. Another friend lived almost two decades in a refugee camp. I've sat with them and felt as if I were within an Orthodox icon, sitting next to the Madonna herself. From where does such peace come?
Grace means that God cares for the four of us, and everyone else besides. Everyone who has ever lived. We say God is omnipotent, it's one of the key doctrines. It doesn't mean that God intrudes into our biological reality and arranges things for our convenience. (As Ogion said to Ged, magic always has a side effect somewhere else.) Omnipotence means Grace— that great love of God revealed in the Son— will not be denied. The four of us, with all our peculiarities, and all other people, will be brought to fullness of being. No one will be excluded. No one will escape. God will out-wait all of us.
And so we endure our weaknesses. We revel in that which brings us joy. We love. We wait. And life continues.
Andrew Prior (2020)
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