“Did you pray for that meal before you started?” I asked. She had toast and scrambled eggs, on a tray, above her hospital bed.
The woman shook her head. Her granddaughter laughed.
I laughed, too.
“I’m not the prayer inspector,” I said. And then we talked for a while about what was on her heart. I prayed, though not for the food. And I took a little package from her to her daughter in another part of the hospital.
And laughed with her, too.
It was an encouraging few moments in a challenging shift.
But no more challenging than our lives are. From the intensely private and personal crises to the international ones, from the momentary struggles to those lasting two years and those lasting for generations.
In that moment, knowing that this woman was wrestling with many levels of struggle, I chose in a moment to offer a laugh. And then an ear. And then some words. And then a prayer. And then a delivery. I chose to not be a spiritual inspector, to not be a preacher.
My sisters and brothers, we are exhausted. And we are cranky. Some of us are at risk of sudden death from bullets or bombs, from aneurysms or accidents. Some of us are in the slow death that is life.
And we need a moment to laugh.
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. In the old days you used up the food that would spoil while you didn’t eat it during Lent. In the old days you ate well and laughed well and then settled down and sobered up to prepare your heart and life to think about the coming story of the betrayal and death and resurrection of Jesus.
It’s okay to laugh, knowing we’ll cry. To cry, knowing we’ll laugh.
It’s okay to rest in our exhaustion.