Easter Sunday when I was eight years old, must have been cold and snowy, because I remember I had to wear my boots to church. I remember that very clearly, as well as the mess of feelings Little Me was having that morning.
I am the oldest of six, but that Easter we were only four – three girls – age eight, six, and five – plus our four year old brother. We were excited about Easter eggs, or maybe a chocolate bunny, or a hollow chocolate hen, sitting on a hollow chocolate nest. We woke up early for the hunt.
Daddy came in from the barn, running late, like most Sundays. He smelled of hay, manure and milk. He rushed to wash, don a suit, and comb his fine unruly hair. It was almost church time, but I still had not found my Easter eggs! My little sisters and brother had theirs, but mine were nowhere to be found. Looking back, I don’t know how we knew whose eggs were whose, but I certainly did not have mine.
It was time to go. Daddy was ready. “Put on your boots,” he said.
“No! I want my candy! I can’t find my candy!”
“Put on your boots!”
“NO! I want my candy!”
“ALICE, put – on – your – boots!!!!”
He was getting angry. I was furious! No candy and I had to go to church! I stomped my little feet all the way to the corner where my boots waited, under the hooks piled high with coats. One foot in, and then…. What? Something was in there! Candy!
You would think that I would be overjoyed. Instead, I felt horrid. So sorry for disobeying my Daddy. So sorry for being angry when he was telling me where my candy was, all along. But at the same time, really mad at him for not just saying so. Mad at him for embarrassing me this way. Embarrassed, that I, the oldest, was acting like a baby, on top of the fact that all the little ones had found their candy first.
I was reminded of all this earlier this week. Usually I fall asleep easily, but that night, I was up late, sipping camomile tea, fussing into my journal about uncertainty. It’s a strange world right now. It has been over a year since we had church services. Two Easter mornings have come and gone without choruses of Alleluja. Finally, this Sunday, we are going to open our doors, AND our windows, wear our masks, and sit socially distanced, so we can at last worship together in person, instead of just online. We will NOT be singing.
The decision to open this Sunday was made weeks ago, and here we are, with increased cases of variants, a public exposure at the Post Office, which is just down the street from the church, and a mobile testing unit set up in the mall parking lot. Some of my people will be isolating as they wait for their test results. Others will be more nervous than before, about being at church. And so I was fussing. How many people would come to church now? Would we be safe, with all our safety measures? No one would know until too late.
That night, it wasn’t just Covid on my mind, but climate change, economic change, work change, school change. I don’t know – none of us know – whether tomorrow will be the same as today. I could feel everyone’s anxieties swirling around me, mixed with my own. How do we make a plan for anything, with Covid rules subject to change daily? If any of us have to go into isolation, is there enough food in the house? What about work? Will there be money? What if something breaks? How do we get it fixed? How do we replace things that break or wear out, with shortages in the stores, and the list of shortages growing? Can we learn to make do, to value old chipped dishes, for example, instead of tossing them at the first signs of wear, or the first dash of boredom? What are we losing in all this change? But what, also, are we gaining?
So many questions, so much fussing. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. I had my Bible open beside me to the Book of Sirach. Sirach is not part of the Protestant Bible, so I had never read it. At some point recently, I had heard a beautiful quote from Sirach, and got out my Catholic New Revised Standard Version Bible. That night, I began to read. Sirach 3:22 popped right off the page at me, and landed deep in my heart:
Reflect upon what you have been commanded, for what is hidden is not your concern (NRSV).
I had been fussing about what was hidden, all the things in our imagined future that we know nothing about. We guess and guess. We worry. We fuss. Well, at least I do. Yet here, Sirach is saying that those hidden things are not my concern. What I do need to think about, what I do need to reflect on, is what I have been commanded, what I already know that I am supposed to be doing. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves, for instance (Mark 12:30-31). Those two commands take in all the rest, Jesus said.
And don’t worry. Don’t worry, Jesus said, about your food or your clothes. Don’t worry, just seek the Sacred, the Holy, the Spirit (Matthew 6:25-32). That, just that, is enough to keep me occupied, Love and Seeking the Sacred. Can I keep my mind on those things? Can I reflect on what I have been commanded? Can I focus on that instead of those things that are hidden, which, Sirach says, are no concern of mine?
Sirach was written about 200 BC, yet here it was, a timely message. I fell asleep meditating on those words, and listening to the sound of the frogs. Frogs don’t have a worry in the world, even though they too are facing climate change and environmental troubles, even extinction. They are smarter than me. They do not fuss about the hidden things. They only lift their voices as they are meant to do, reflecting the commandment of their very Being, night after night, in joyful song.