Under the stars Leah Perrault feels the relative smallness of the universe, while at the same time gratitude to God for making a place for her within it. Photo by Marc Perrault

Leah Perrault: Holding tension with the God who waits

  • May 20, 2021

Holding, as an attribute of God, sort of fell out of the sky for me this month. I was looking out the window with wonder at just how many stars we can see without leaving the city in this new-to-us, small(er) city we now call home. As I juggle all the new things, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. The Creator of the Universe is holding time and space in an eternal trajectory.

When my husband has spare time on a clear night, he packs up his gear and drives out to a secluded spot to take pictures of the sky. He has patience to research, set up and wait for a few great shots. As someone who has always found God in the night sky, I love the work of Marc’s eye.

The pictures capture a millisecond of a work of creation that is millions of years in the making. The stars are older than the planet I walk on. The position of the moon follows a rhythm I barely understand. The northern lights catch in the atmosphere and dance whether the clouds cover them or not. And God is holding this ongoing creation open.

My world is full of tensions. People in the Church horizontally excommunicating each other over different theological options. Rage and exhaustion with different opinions about COVID and the protocols. All the ordinary misunderstanding and difference of living and working with a fascinating array of human beings.

So much of what God has asked me to do in my faith life is to hold space. It seems an odd calling for a person who enjoys resolution so much. And yet, here I am.

While mercifully holding and appreciating my desire for control, God invites me into situations that are not about me. I have been invited to bring myself and appreciate the gifts, skills and perspectives of others. God presents me with people to love and learn from. Some of them I know for just a few moments, and others live in the same house. God invites me into the holding, an ongoing and open relationship of wonder and discovery, rather than immediate resolution.

How do we hold the tensions in a way that imitates the Creator? How do we allow the stars to burn with their beautiful and consuming fire? How do we move with the freedom of the northern lights and leave room to see and appreciate the way others do likewise in different colours and sizes and shapes?

In a passage about people who rebel, the prophet Isaiah points out a God who is holding us through the tension: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you” (Isaiah 30:18). And in the Gospel of John, Jesus prepares His disciples for His death by promising that He goes “to prepare a place” for us (John 14:3). Salvation is not a moment, a perfect turning, an instantaneous and permanent resolution; it is an ongoing work of creation.

When I sit under the stars, I feel my relative smallness in the universe and a simultaneous gratitude that God saw fit to have a place for me in it. I feel called to step into this massive work of creation and place my tiny hands in God’s eternal hands and hold the tension alongside the Spirit.

Holding tension in my world looks like taking 15 more minutes to get out of the door with a toddler who feels sad about the way I cut his toast. It sounds like the silent space after someone says something I disagree with while I dig for an authentically curious question that will deepen my understanding of their perspective. It feels like leaving the toys on the lawn and watching the sun set instead because the toys will be there in the morning, but the sun won’t set on this day ever again.

It’s taken millions of years for the sky to look the way it will tonight. If God is waiting on me, and the divine plan requires preparing, then I can practise holding time and space. It is enough — no, it is a virtue in the midst of tensions — to hold space for one another to learn to love here.

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

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