lenten journal: shelter


It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.

That is the Irish proverb from which Pádraig Ó Tuama takes the title of his book. I’ve been thinking about it all day, particularly since our governor announced a new “stay home, stay safe” policy that requires all “non-essential” businesses to close. I assume that means Blazing Fresh Donuts, across the street from our house, will stay open. What could be more essential?

Some other places have issued “shelter in place” orders, which is another way of saying take care of yourself by staying right where you are rather than evacuating. As far as the ‘Rona goes, there’s nowhere to go to get out from under it. But staying put is no guarantee.

To stay home is no guarantee of staying safe. Or, I might add after almost a week of this new world order, staying sane.

In the chapter I re-read today, three statements that Pádraig Ó Tuama made stuck with me. He talking about a particular period in his life when he said

The way I believed in God fed a distrust of life and a comfort with doom. Better the doomy god you know than the roomy god you don’t, I suppose.

I carried the image of a “roomy God” around with me all day, as I went to several stores trying to find things in short supply, or get things we needed, as I listened to news of what feels like impending doom. As the house–and the world–feel like they are getting smaller, I need a roomy God. An expansive God. An unquarantined God.

The second sentence that followed me around was a question Pádraig asked himself one morning as a part of his spiritual practice:

What is happening that I need to welcome?

What do I need to make room for, even as life seems to feel more like an escape room with the walls closing in?

The question is deeper to me than saying we have to look on the bright side of life. Asking what we need to welcome is not simply looking for what will make us feel better. It calls me to come to terms with being where I am. Here. Right now–which takes me to the third thing Pádraig said.

To deny here is to harrow the heart.

I am grateful for all of the shows of connectedness I have seen this past week: the concerts, the messages, the acts of kindness, the donations to help businesses stay open. We have set a good standard for ourselves that we are going to need to keep up for longer than we think. These are harrowing days and we need to shelter one another.

I feel like I’ve been sending you along with music all week, so I will not break my pattern. One of my favorite 80s bands was the Housemartins, and they had a song called “Shelter.”

in times when you’re troubled
seems more than you can afford
and you feel, you feel you need a friend
someone to share the load
and when your skies grow cloudy
I want you to know got a friend that’s true
just like a shelter, in a time of storm
I’ll see you through, that’s what I’ll do

Take us out, boys.


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