When a crisis hits, it is natural to turn to God. When things ease up, God can take a back seat. Regina Spektor looks at that reality in her song “Laughing With.”
Some of the lyrics in this song are so evocative that they make my throat close. No one laughs at God…when the doctor calls…when the cops knock at the door…when saying goodbyes. These are the times when I need strength. These are the times when God draws very near to me. It is my choice whether to accept the grace that the Divine One has to offer in those tumultuous times or not. Many people, in dire circumstances, choose to turn toward the support that God has to offer. We pray with an intensity and fervor born out of our deep understanding of our powerlessness, our knowledge that we can’t get through this alone. As we struggle through our difficulties, it is comforting to know that Someone is there with us. Someone bigger than us. Someone who understands. Someone who loves us. We cling to this One.
In happy times, in normal times, God can take more of a back seat. Our prayers, less driven by desperation, lose a little of their intensity. We lighten up. As the situation relaxes, our prayers, like our breath, come easier. We can now come up with words, where before we could only groan from our deepest need. Thank God, we say, and go on our way. We have changed. We have grieved. But we are no longer at a level of desperate need and our prayers reflect that.
The danger comes when I remove God even one more step from my life. When I forget how much I need God, I start to take divine power for granted, As Regina Spektor says, God can be funny. My prayers can become shallow. I can make God small. When I pray “Thy kingdom come,” I’m really hoping for some earthly wealth. I ask for “our daily bread,” but I am really praying for a feast. I pray for success so that my team wins. I pray for luck as I scratch off my lottery tickets. Sometimes it takes another crisis to shake me out of this complacency toward God.
Desperate times are full of grace, because they allow us to turn to God and to rely on God. However, we could not survive at a constant crisis level. The police don’t knock on anyone’s door day after day after day, bringing more and more devastating news. But, there are some chronic conditions that cause people to rely on God on a deep level on a daily basis. Regina Spektor mentions these as “starving or freezing or so very poor.” People with chronic problems come to rely on God through daily necessity in these situations, their faith deepening through daily dependence.
For me, the deterioration of my vision has been an opportunity for this kind of deepening understanding of my dependence on Divine Mercy. I have had my share of crises in my life, urgent need for immediate assistance from God, followed by periods of calm when I drifted back into complacency. This current situation is different for me. My life before was a journey full of peaks and valleys. Now, it seems to me like I am on a steady journey, traveling deep into the heart of some mystery full of grace. The loss of vision is a hard thing to deal with. I’m not going to say it is easy. But there is an easiness about the slow decline, an easiness that I never experienced in the ups and downs of my life before this. I am grateful for the relatively slow speed of my vision loss for this reason. I have time to search out the grace. I have time to uncover the beauty. I have time to laugh with God.