How to Begin
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7 (NRSV)
When I heard the news that I had a ball of cancer growing silently inside of me, the first call I made was to my husband. By tacit agreement, I’d been the unflappable one for the previous decade of our lives. But this time, he agreed to let me freak out. His decision to be the steady one made that particular emergency a lot more bearable.
I learned unflappability from a Robertson Davies novel, in which a village parson is called to the scene of a murder in the middle of the night. He doesn’t race there wild-haired with his PJs peeking out of his raincoat. He takes time to dress, wash, and compose himself before he gets there. He knows that whomever he meets at the other end will need his dignity, empathy, and strength—even if he would have to fake it in the face of the calamitous.
I take this role to heart, which doesn’t mean I always get it right. There was the time I drove a mom fleeing partner violence home from the ER in the middle of the night with broken glass all over the passenger seat from a break-in earlier that day. The restorative justice circle between a pedophile and the parents of his victim I attended with my newborn in tow, boobs geysering milk. The time I cried my eyes out in public on the church lawn after a particularly fierce church fight. These are exceptions (I think?).
Someday, perhaps soon, someone recently devastated by the unimaginable will call on you. As they break down, they will search your face as they would look into a mirror. What they hope to see is that they will get through this. Show them they will.
God, let me be one of your calm and capable customer service reps: one who can embody a peace that passes all understanding, even in emergencies. Amen.
This devotional is excerpted from Molly’s new book, “How to Begin When Your World is Ending: A Spiritual Field Guide to Joy Despite Everything,” which debuts today from every major bookseller.