This morning was uninspiring at best. Awakened by a cranky two-year old who didn’t want to sleep but didn’t want to be fully awake either, I reluctantly rose from bed to confront a day as grey as my mood. Snow on the ground…cloudy, sunless sky above. Listless and unmotivated, I considered the mundane tasks of the day: shuttling kids to and from school, laundry, ironing, dishes, cleaning, and…(big sigh)…taxes. Things only seemed to get worse as the morning progressed. The cat threw up on the duvet. I didn’t have time to dress my toddler before leaving for school (he wore pajamas all day), and my five year-old daughter had to be unwillingly carried to the car, wailing. Apparently, she, too, was unable to muster much enthusiasm for the day ahead. Grey moods to match grey skies.
It’s easy to recognize God in the typical expressions of Spring: budding trees, green grass, clear skies, and the warmth of the sun. It’s much harder to see God when the world appears drab and dreary, cold and lifeless. Ready to retreat from the bleakness of this day, I recalled reading the words “Show to us the glory in the grey” in J.Philip Newell’s The Book of Creation. Newell uses the phrase, borrowed from George MacLeod’s prayer of similar name (‘The Glory in the Grey’), to illustrate the Celtic tradition of recognizing the presence of God in all things…even in the most ordinary and mundane. A basic tenet of Celtic Christianity, according to Newell, is the belief that “at the heart of all that has life is the light of God.” There is no separating oneself from this light. The light may appear buried, forgotten, ignored, or concealed, but it is always present. Newell also writes, “The Celtic tradition often portrays grace as washing away the things that obscure the essential goodness of life. The light that was in the beginning still glows in the heart of life but we do not see its full brilliance.”
That is what I’m experiencing today. The essential goodness of life is, for the moment, obscured from my vision, concealed by a frigid breeze, oppressive clouds, fatigue, and a dour mood. Waiting for grace to wash away these obstructions, I reluctantly put one foot in front of the other and set myself to the tasks of the day, mundane as they are. It’s not easy, given my present mood. I’d rather escape or “step aside from the flow” as Newell describes. Instead I remain in the flow, present and aware, and slowly the veil falls away to reveal what always was…the glory in the grey.
From ‘The Glory in the Grey’
A Prayer by George MacLeod
Almighty God, Sustainer:
Sun behind all suns,
Soul behind all souls,
Show to us in everything we touch
and in everyone we meet
the continued assurance of Thy presence round us:
lest ever we should think Thee absent.
In all created things Thou art there.
In every friend we have
the sunshine of Thy presence is shown forth.
In every enemy that seems to cross our path,
Thou art there within the cloud
to challenge us to love.
Show to us the glory in the grey.
Awake for us Thy presence in the very storm
till all our joys are seen as Thee
and all our trivial tasks emerge as priestly sacraments
in the universal temple of Thy love.