Sometimes it is something simple, like a homegrown pumpkin patch, we can put our hope and efforts into. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Leah Perrault: God’s saving grace lives in the moment

By 
  • October 23, 2020

Saving the open document on my computer, I close my door with intention, mentally leaving the worries of work inside my office. I wish my co-workers a good evening and check in with myself as I walk to daycare to get my littlest one. We drive to school to pick up the big three while I review the evening’s supper plan. My oldest is finally big enough to sit in the front seat and we chat about our days while the small three connect in the back. The days blend together and I am keeping my heart fixed on Barbara Brown Taylor’s question: “What is saving your life right now?”

The question catches me off-guard almost every time because I forget that salvation is a moment-by-moment process instead of an end-of-time event. God reaches into reality to deliver me through difficulty, to sit with me in suffering and to save me from destruction — when I consent to the saving. Sometimes I prefer wallowing in the weight of my losses than allowing God’s saving presence to find me.

The pandemic has shrunk our world, reduced things to the essential at home and at work, and magnified the dysfunctional and destructive, at least inasmuch as the hard places are much harder to ignore and avoid. And our family was living in grief, one day at a time, for three years before COVID. This question has become an essential spiritual practice.

The answer changes constantly. In the first days of the pandemic, letting go of my expectations for normal was saving me. It was going to bed on time. It was sitting, if only for a few minutes, working out my grief with knitting needles. It was the curve of my favourite mug, warm against my palm. Then, as winter gave way to spring, it was digging in dirt and planting life, and staying close to the hope and miracle of seeds sprouting in the yard.

The God who has held me for every moment of my existence does not offer a heady salvation from a massive throne on a far off judgment day; the Spirit pours the saving into creation and wraps itself around me in every moment.

For as long as he has had breath, Atticus’ deepest joy has been laughter. He prefers giggling to lullabies. When I stop seeing bedtime as one more thing on the to-do list, his chesty, toddler laughter saves me from my resentment one more time. When a friend of Eliot’s sent pumpkin seeds for a contest, I had no idea that every morning in July and August I would sneak out early in the morning to check if new blossoms had opened and needed to be pollinated. Those orange flowers gave me something to put my hope in for weeks on end. And then they gave way to two round, green pumpkins we checked on every afternoon.

School brought more change and we are settling into yet another season in a pandemic world. God is saving my life with occasional walks with a friend, changing leaves and the routines that have us sharing work. A couple weeks into school, I was getting irritated by all the short fuses. I reflected at supper time that we get to choose the emotional temperature and weather in the house. It’s OK for us to feel hard feelings and we can all choose gentle tones instead of reactive ones. I did not anticipate how much deep breaths and trying another way to say something would be saving us just a few weeks later.

The question is not concerned with what saved me yesterday or could save me tomorrow. Salvation is worked out in the present. Today’s answers may have been unimaginable yesterday and completely ineffective tomorrow. Three years of grieving before a pandemic have taught me to search in the middle of the mess for the thing that is saving me from my own despair and cling to it until I need the next thing. I need only to give myself over to God, present and healing, in this moment.

Creation is infused with the Creator, so that saving can be done everywhere and in all things. Allowing myself to be held and saved here is the sacred and saving work of my life right now.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatchewan and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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