For many people, Fridays are the days when their spirits begin to lift. The drudgery of the workweek is almost done and a weekend full of freedom and promise beckons. TGIF and all that. For me, Fridays often feel, well, exactly the opposite of that. I have noticed that on many Fridays a heaviness of sorts will just descend upon me. The reasons for this are myriad, but, having performed a cursory inventory on this Friday, the following seem consistently to rise to the top of the list.
Almost always, my sermon is nowhere near completed (or even begun). Today, for example, I have spent the previous twenty minutes staring morosely at precisely one lonely, uninspiring paragraph on my computer screen, silently willing it to perform a two-loaves-and-five-fishes transformation job, and miraculously morph into the finished product. Nearly every Friday, I wonder if/when/from where inspiration might arrive for Sunday.
Almost always, there are tasks that I had wanted to get done during the week that remain undone. There are phone calls that I did not return, emails that I have been putting off responding to for days and have not yet summoned the requisite creativity or courage to respond to, services and meetings to plan that I haven’t even thought about much less begun to plot a course of action on.
Almost always, I have let someone down during the past week—I have failed to rise to the level of someone’s expectation, whether this expectation was realistic or not. Today, I have had to respond to two emails from people on the other side of the world wondering if our refugee group could help them get to Canada. Twice, I have had to say, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do anything right now.” Which doesn’t feel very good for me. And, more importantly, almost certainly doesn’t feel very good for them either. I hate letting people down—especially people who are so familiar with being let down.
Almost always, I have failed those closest to me by the time Friday rolls around. I have not been the husband or father that my family deserves. I have responded with a quick and insensitive word. I have failed to/chosen not to understand. I have loved in partial and selfish ways. Which is another way of saying that I have failed to love.
Almost always, there is something going on around the world that breaks the heart. That’s true of every day, of course, not just Fridays. But on Fridays it feels weightier for me somehow. Right now, I’m steadily refreshing the CBC news site and watching news trickle in of an explosion/mass shooting in Paris that has claimed
one, four, eighteen, twenty-six lives and will probably claim more by the time I finish writing this blog post. The story will get uglier, undoubtedly. There will likely be all kinds of nefarious connections with terrorist organizations. There will be all manner of online reaction and outrage. Because online reaction and outrage is what we do best when bad things happen.
Almost always, Fridays bring the reminder at least on some level that there’s just not enough to go around—not enough goodness, resourcefulness, creativity, resilience, money, time, good will, mercy….
I did something radical this Friday, when the heaviness started to descend. I stopped staring plaintively at my pathetic beginnings of a sermon, and I prayed. I sat silently in the blue chair in the corner of my office. I breathed in and out. I recited the Jesus prayer in my head, over and over again.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner…
And then it occurred to me that if I think that God has it in him to have mercy on those of us who regularly leave so much undone, then perhaps we could have a bit of mercy on ourselves. God knows that the world is a screwed up place and that we are incapable of fixing it. God knows that there will always be things left undone. Having mercy is what God does, on all of us who so regularly and so foolishly imagine that everything depends upon us.
And God also knows a thing or two about heaviness descending on a Friday, doesn’t he? Whatever else was going on when Jesus hung on that awful cross and groaned those words that have resounded down through the ages—It is finished—at the very least it meant (and means still) that God was doing for us and for the world what we could never do for ourselves. Exposing, judging, forgiving, healing, restoring, redeeming, liberating, and God only knows what else.
Dragging this weary world where so much is left undone on to new creation.
A heavy task for a Friday. A God-sized task, if ever there was one.
The image above is called “Five Loaves & Two Fish” by Caroline Coolidge Brown and is taken from the 2012-13 Christians Seasons Calendar. My 2015-16 edition just arrived this week. If you’re so inclined, drop by the University Hill Congregation (Vancouver) website and order your own copy of this marvelous aid to helping order time according to the life and ministry of Jesus.