Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, often called Mothering Sunday. It marks the half-way point between Ash Wednesday and Easter…It’s the day when, though still observing the Lenten fast, one might apply its rule more generously. The rules are softer, there is room to breathe, your mother says you may have “just a little bit more.”
It’s a little bit like this…
A terse encounter at the rental car counter. Having paid to rent a navigation device that didn’t work properly, I had girded up my loins to ask for that portion of the rental fee to be refunded. The man behind the counter was annoyed. “Did you call when you found that it didn’t work? We could have given you directions to fix it.” OF COURSE I hadn’t called—telephone calls to strangers being one of the simple tasks of grown-up life which I dread with the full force of a child’s primal terror of monsters in the dark. “Well,” he said, “you should have called.” I tried my best wide-eyed, slightly Southern-accented “I’m sorry.” He was unmoved. I had reached the limits of my grown-up bravery, and I was tired, having left my hotel early. Also anxious, having left my hotel not quite early enough. There we were, the two of us, mired in lives’ and days’ worth of messy human failings that had now awkwardly converged over this matter of a few tens of dollars. “OK,” I said, neither sweetly nor Southernly, “never mind. I’m going to miss my plane if I don’t go now.”
He looked up, his face as miserable as mine—looked at me, looked out the window. “The shuttle bus isn’t even there yet.” Sigh. “I guess I could refund half of it.” Another, slightly less miserable glance at one another, and then the noise of the shuttle bus pulling to the curb. Then, softly, the smallest moment of grace: he—undoubtedly well-schooled in assessing the degree of lateness and anxiety on a customer’s face–looked at me one more time and said, still grumpily, “go ahead and put your suitcase on the bus; I’ll bring the receipt out to you.”
We were saved.
It’s like that sometimes. You can’t meet halfway until someone gives just a tiny bit more. Halfway isn’t quite enough, but it turns out to be a lot more than 1/2. God, I think, isn’t very interested in fractions—irreverently, I can envision God flinging the elements around with the reckless joy of the Swedish chef making a birthday cake or a two-year-old playing with measuring cups in the bathtub. I hear God explain in the voice of a Tennessean grandmother: “you just need a little pinch of salt, and then, oh… about two handfuls of flour and plenty of sugar.” (And butter. Lots and lots and lots of butter. Goes without saying.) Mercy and grace are not carefully rationed, but freely given–“good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”
So, we keep going, and it is still hard, but we only have to go just a little more than halfway.