"Is that Jesus?"
She whispered softly. She was pointing up generally in the direction of the crucifix and the altar.
My initial impulse was to just say yes. Yes. The priest represents our Lord and it's ok to see him as Jesus when he's lifting the chalice. Yes. The statue represents Jesus. Yes. The Eucharist is, really and truly, our blessed Lord. Whatever you're pointing at, the answer is almost certainly yes.
But you hear stories about confused kids thinking the priest is Jesus or that Jesus is a statue. I probably worry too much. Three year olds are very literal people. We should probably take the time, even now in the middle of Mass, to understand where she's pointing.
"Do you mean the priest?"
"No, silly. That's Father K."
"Right. Do you mean on the cross?"
"Up there? Mom. That's just a statue."
"Ok. Well. Do you mean the cross?"
"?!" No words. Mom is clearly not very clever.
"Mom. No. Behind the statues. Is Jesus there?"
What on Earth? Is she imagining a man behind the curtains. The great and powerful Oz-christ?
"I don't know what you mean, sweetheart. There is not a person behind the statues."
"Mom. I know. There's shadows. See? Is Jesus there?"
"In the shadows?"
"He's everywhere, right? But I can't see very well in the shadows. I think he's there. I think that's Jesus in the shadows."
I think she might be on to something.
When you are struggling, He's there. When you can't see, him or anything else, He's there.
Faith means believing when it isn't obvious. When good things happen we call them blessings. We see God in the good. Ah-ha! The medication kicked in! Praise God! Oh! We had a snow day when I needed sleep! TBTG! It's easy to see God when things are working out. We don't always thank God for our blessings. We don't even always notice our blessings. But when good things happen, it is easy to see God if you care to look.
But what about when things are not good?
The hardest part for me about having anxiety isn't the fear. The debilitating, painful, unfounded and unfocused fear. That's awful, but worse is that I can't control my mind. It's running off in a million directions.
For me, the hardest part of the anxiety attacks is that I don't know how to pray. I don't know how to attend.
So while my mind is running in a million terrible directions and I can't help but recall every awful thing I know, I don't know how to ask Jesus to calm the storm.
Doubt doubles down. Doubt grabs the swirling fears. What if it is all meaningless. What if I'm wrong. What if God isn't real.
Dear Lord, help. Quiet the storm. "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
And there, in the terrifying darkness, with my unfocused pleading. In the shadows. God is there.
It isn't a magic trick. I'm still scared. I'm still lost. I'm still confused. I'm still unfocused. But he's there.
"No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I'm clinging!"
I love the song, but that line in particular. What is calm clinging? It doesn't make sense. Not just holding on. Not just standing firm. Clinging. When the storm is knocking everything about, this rock is firm. Unmoving.
Cold. Scared. Clinging.
Close your eyes and hang on tight.
When you can't see your hand in front of your face, cling. Hang on with everything you've got. He's there. In the darkness. In the shadows. In the fear. When you need Him most. He's there.
The inmost calm is quieter than the noise of the storm. But it doesn't shake.
Becca is probably right. In some ways, Jesus in the shadows is more real than the statues.