So the conversation I have with my Nana the night before I sit down to write this essay goes a little something like this. We’d just got in from choir rehearsal. I’m still rolling around town in my pajamas when I’m not at work because I still haven’t recovered from the flu 100%. I probably look a mess. I feel tired. I throw down my backpack, grab a bowl of spaghetti, and join Nana at the dining room table where she’s begun sorting sheet music. I spin my noodles around the bowl and say this,
“So Nana… I know you’ve yelled at me more than once already about not having this reflection piece written. But can we just put that aside for a second… because I honestly don’t know what to write about. Every year Lent has seemed so easy for me to get into. It’s my favorite liturgical season by far. Like every other year, I was super excited for Ash Wednesday to come around. Then I got the flu. Literally, on Ash Wednesday. And being out of work and stuck in bed for almost ten days has totally wasted me and eaten up my Lent. I lost my momentum and can’t get it back. I volunteered to write this reflection piece, and I don’t even know where I’d start, because I feel like I never really arrived in Lent! I’ve made my sacrifices and I haven’t cheated, and that’s going so well that I just feel like I’m performing with no spirit! I don’t know what to do.”
I finish my rant (slightly out of breath from the asthmatic bronchitis that developed from my flu), and like so many times before when I’ve been stuck, I’m just sitting there in the dark hoping she’ll give me my direction back. She’s actually still sorting through sheet music when I tell her this, and when I finish she does three things. First, she advises me to write about something simple, because frankly she’s tired of all the highfalutin big ideas. (Heard Nana.) Second, she walks over and takes her little black Lenten reflection book out of her coffee table drawer and puts it in my hands. “Start there, this is very good.” (Agreed.) And then she tells me this story:
“There was something Father Pat said once, an almost throwaway kind of line from one of his morning mass homilies a long time ago. Something about it kept it coming back to me over and over again. It was in connection to the story about the woman who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve days, or years, or something like that. She seeks out Jesus and finds him in a crowd. She fights her way to be close to him, reaches out, and touches his clothes. Jesus feels the energy leave him, stops, and insists on finding out who has touched him before he finally heals her. He tells her, her faith is what has healed her.
Father Pat asked: if you had the chance to reach out and touch the clothes of Jesus, what would you ask him to cleanse you of?”
I sat there in silence for a moment. My response, in my usually eloquent fashion was, “Wow.”
And her response in kind was, “Yup.”
I chewed on it for a second more, with my hand on my chin. All of my gloriously foul mess-ups, and cringe-worthy bad habits flashing before my mind’s eye. Yet, there was only one feeling that emanated from my gut, “ I don’t know if I’d have the guts to do it Nana. Honestly. If I had one chance to reach out and touch Jesus? If he was right here? Right now? No way. Not for all the tea in China. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it happening.”
Nana cracked a small grin. “You try to save everyone you meet Robyn. Maybe with the flu Jesus was trying to slow you down a bit. Put a pad to paper, and get out what he’s trying to tell you.”
Now that’s not what I was expecting to hear her say, so I assume she knows something I don’t. Which is almost always true.