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Writing in Pencil

This week, I put an event in my calendar that won’t happen until later in the fall. It’s a liturgy, a sacrament, something that can only happen if we are still able to worship inside the church. In other words, it’s an event that could very well need to be postponed if things change – if COVID cases continue to rise, if our gatherings become more limited, if we find ourselves sheltering in place once again.

I wrote the appointment in pencil.

Okay, I didn’t actually write the appointment in pencil. I typed it into my online calendar. But in my mind, the appointment is penciled in; it’s a placeholder only, a marker that might have to be moved if (when?) things in our world change once again. Because I know, we all know, that life during COVID means that things move – appointments have to be shifted, visits postponed, gatherings adjusted. We know that there is little chance that our lives will remain wholly constant in the coming weeks and months. Like it or not, things are likely to change, and change again, and maybe even change again.

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t the way that I’m used to living my life. I like my calendar to be well-planned well ahead of time; I like knowing what’s on the agenda as far in advance as I can. I like writing my appointments in pen; I would write them in marker if I could. I like knowing what’s coming down the road, what I’ll be doing on which day, no matter how far in the future it might be. I don’t love a calendar that’s filled with possibilities written in pencil.

But the other thing that life during COVID has taught me is that writing in pencil isn’t such a bad way to live. Writing in pencil is, in fact, a deeply faithful way to live, a way that Jesus endorsed when he encouraged his disciples to lose their life, to let go of the need for control, to hold their lives loosely. Jesus knows that to cling too tightly to the structures of this world – our plans, our schedules, our capacity for prediction or our trust in the world’s reliability – is to cling to the wrong thing. Cling instead to me, he says. Hold on to me for everything that you are worth. Let me be the constant in your life, let my love be the one thing that does not, that will not, ever change.

I am with you, even to the end of the age. Everything else you can write in pencil.

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