“You know what I’m most scared of, Mom?” Last week, Christopher snuggled up to me as we savored our all-too-short time together. “The riots. The kids at school said there’s going to be rioting if Obama doesn’t win.”
I considered this a moment. My first instinct was to reassure him, to tell him it was unlikely that any election outcome would cause people to take to the streets. And yet, discounting his concern was not going to address his underlying anxiety.
With Christopher in his treatment program, so much about our lives right now is characterized by uncertainty – something that is very hard on a child with attachment issues. Who sits in the Oval Office affects him much less than, say, the compassionate expertise of his therapist. And yet, focusing on the big picture can sometimes provide a welcome distraction from the more immediate concerns of the here-and-now.
And so, I tried to focus on giving him an alternative “big picture”: hope. Together we dreamed aloud of what our lives were going to be like when he came home, and of the mantle of love and prayer that was wrapped around him every moment until that day. Of the invisible presence of his angel, who awakened me in the night to pray for him whenever he found it hard to sleep. I saw that moment as an opportunity to encourage my son to cultivate his “second sight.”
This kind of spiritual sensibility is vital to the life of every Christian, for it provides a much-needed link between the physical and spiritual worlds. God reveals himself to us through the material world, drawing our attention to unseen realities through our senses. And so it is no surprise that the evil one also seeks to distract us with those same physical cues, distracting us from spiritual realities by tempting us to focus solely on the information we take in through our physical senses.
The first reading this weekend, then, is a timely reminder of God’s desire to reach out to us in the midst of our immediate circumstances, no matter how desperate. It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, from 1 Kings 17, about a desperate mother who looks at a stranger with eyes of faith . . . and finds unexpected abundance.
Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.
As he arrived at the entrance of the city,
a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,
“Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”
She left to get it, and he called out after her,
“Please bring along a bit of bread.”
She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives,
I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar
and a little oil in my jug.
Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,
to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;
when we have eaten it, we shall die.”
You know the rest of the story. With a breathtaking gesture of faith, the widow made a simple meal for the prophet . . . and her stores miraculously expanded enough to feed them all for the duration of the famine. This physical abundance must have brought great relief to this isolated family. And yet, it was also a sign of a spiritual reality she had only begun to understand.
This week, how is God challenging you to sharpen your “second sight”? Look especially carefully at the challenging circumstances of your life, big or small, and ask yourself: “How can I use this as an opportunity to lean just a little harder on Divine Providence?”