[Apologies for the delay in posts: technical difficulties on the heels of travel and Thanksgiving have kept me away. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Tomorrow, our series “Holy Space” recommences with photojournalist Katie Archibald-Woodward.]
This past weekend I turned 38. With the advent of the late thirties, birthdays increasingly come with a tinge of mortality and a twang of melancholy when before they never did.
And there are those things I just find hard to understand about growing older….
…like how it is you can still get those juicy zits decades after you thought teenage acne was thankfully over
…or how it is that your hair starts stubbornly sprouting in places you never thought it could
…or why, when time, still measured in the same increments now seems to speed by rather than slowly meander.
But this last fact imbues the aging process with a certain sacred blessedness, too. Time in both its essence and its parts becomes so much more treasured: I want more of it, as much of it as I can fit in a day; and I find myself wanting to stop its passage more often these days or to bundle up moments.
And, laughter is more poignantly lovely—often filtered through the quirky remarks of my children. Like yesterday, when my 4-year-old stood at the front of a long line of pharmacy customers holding a musical Spongebob Squarepants card and giggling loudly whenever Spongebob began to shake: “Look, Mommy, Spongebob is tooting!,” she exclaimed loudly, in a continuation of a newfound obsession with potty humor. Or, when a few hours later my son explained rain on a bleak winter day as “God sweating.” (The imagery is rich on so many levels, right? God at the gym, lifting dumbbells, or on the Stairmaster.)
These things that are passing away I want to hold on to maybe stubbornly—in spite of Jesus’ admonition not to grieve such things. What happens to such things when God is making all things new?, I wonder.
With time, too, the embodied presence of persons is entrusted with holiness. A voice on the telephone. An embrace. A handshake. Even a brief exchange with a stranger at the grocery store. These are mystical visions of sorts themselves, as Marilynne Robinson writes in Gilead, when she realizes “there is nothing more astonishing than a human face…It has something to do with incarnation…Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.”
The claim itself—of a face or person in front of me— is now stronger as I grow older. And this is a beautiful thing. Such things should not pass away, I protest, but if they must, then may they be hallowed and wonderful in their passage into all things new.
Maybe this passage and our realization of it are one aspect of sanctification.