3dogmom writes, “For today’s Friday Five, please share with us five ways/things that serve as pleasant distractions when the going gets tough.” She’s writing, I think, from a place of overload–both personal and societal. She’s writing, I think, from a place I’ve been myself more than once in my life. That place where the press of the personal converges with the press of the political. That can be a very dark place.
I suspect that’s the place where Phillips Brooks was in 1865–the year our Civil War ended; the year President Lincoln was assassinated. Brooks was young priest who had led his congregation (Holy Trinity in Philadelphia) through the Civil War. I can imagine that he had sat with many grieving parents and wives and children. I’m sure he delivered scores of funeral sermons. I know he delivered the eulogy at President Lincoln’s funeral. Wearied by the war and it’s aftermath, running near empty in spirit, Brooks took refuge in the Holy Land. There, on Christmas Eve, he rode by horseback to Bethlehem where “…he felt as if he were surrounded by the spirit of the first Christmas….(an) experience so overpowering that it would forever be ‘singing in (his) soul.'”(Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Ace Collins, pp.139-140) Three years later, again right before Christmas, Brooks wrote, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
When I am in a dark and dismal place, I often return to the first stanza of that song:
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
In the still town, in the dark streets that often are a part of the world in which I live and also a part of my own little life, I sit in silence. There, in the silence, fragile hopes and hovering fears dance in the dark. Words from another song rise from the silence, “Yet this I bear in mind and therefore I have hope, Your mercies are new every morning.”
I get up and do something. Maybe it’s another distraction. Maybe it’s a way of making that hope a confidence in the mercies of God. I swim or sew or maybe straighten up. Whatever it is, it gives me time and space to get to that place where Hope begins to trump my fears.