Do you ever wonder what people who went over Niagara Falls in barrels were thinking? I can't imagine anyone thinking that would be a good idea, but I am not terribly adventurous. If rescue would surely involve helicopters and long ropes, count me out. I looked it up - 3 of the first 6 daredevils to go over actually survived. Lately apparently the falls have been somewhat tamed by hydroelectric dams upstream, and sadly, most of the people who go over are accidents or suicides. I think people are more likely to survive now, though there is no guarantee.
But I'm thinking about those who strap themselves into a barrel, or one guy who went over the falls in a kayak, and another on a jet ski. You get to a point of no return where there is no turning back - the pull of the falls is too strong, and if you find yourself there, you're going over. Do you feel energized and alive? Or panicked because you realize that what might have seemed a good idea at the time was really, really stupid?
Today, I feel like we have been bobbing along in an inflatable raft, and we're coming up on a waterfall. We can feel the water picking up speed, and we can hear the roar of the falls. But we don't know these falls. Is it like Niagara, where we will more than likely be smashed on the rocks?Or is it a smaller, gentler fall, where with skill we can navigate the rapids and it will be perilous for a while but there is smooth water not far ahead?
I am, of course, talking about election day, which is tomorrow. I will try to stay busy all day, and will stop regularly and pray for those in line to vote and for the poll workers. I will pray for our country. I have friends who are incredibly anxious about this election. Closets are being cleaned, yards and gardens have never looked better - I've been baking cookies. Anything to keep busy. I'm not terribly worried about tomorrow - tomorrow is the day we go over the falls. Wednesday is the day I'm worrying about.
I've also been thinking about Julian of Norwich, an anchorite in the 15th century. As a young woman, she had a vision that showed her that the world is no more than the size of a hazelnut, and it is cradled in God's hand. Later, Jesus showed her that sin is inevitable, but that, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." Julian is one of my heroes, and if you are intrigued you should read her Revelations of Divine Love.
Julian is telling me that, as in all things, God loves us (though not our behavior, I'm afraid), and God is with us. This gives me hope.
I've also been reading a book called Washington's God: Religion, Liberty and the Father of Our Country by Michael and Jana Novak. George Washington believed in what he called "Providence." He saw the hand of Providence in many of his accomplishments, not least of which was winning the American Revolution by defeating what was then the greatest military power in the world. Our Founding Fathers succeeded at establishing a nation against tremendous odds. For a moment, set aside all that is wrong with our country (there is plenty), and think about what is good, and the miracle that our experiment in democracy continues. I can't help but think that if Providence had a hand in things then, Providence has a hand in things now. We can't correct our mistakes and make things better for those we have marginalized if our country is smashed on the rocks at the bottom of a waterfall.
On Wednesday, this election will be over. Results may not be known, and the fighting will continue, but the election itself will be over. Whether we are smashed on the rocks or just bruised and a little seasick, we'll be on the other side of the falls.
But I have hope. God will be with us. Our world is no bigger than a hazelnut, and cradled in the palm of the hand of Providence. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Maybe not Wednesday, maybe not even next week. Maybe not in 2021. But all manner of things shall be well.
If you haven't yet voted, please do. And will you join me in prayer tomorrow - I will be praying for those who vote and those who don't. I'll pray for those in power, the citizens of our country, and those who live within our borders. I'll pray for the healthcare workers, grocery store workers, teachers, garbage collectors and everyone else working so hard to keep us safe and healthy. I'll pray for those who are ill, and for those who grieve loved ones lost to COVID and to racially motivated violence. I'll pray that after this election our better natures will prevail, and we can get to work strengthening the parts of our government that Providence helped create, and weeding out and eliminating the evil that we have perpetrated on our own people and those around the world.
We're going over - I'll see you on the other side.
Julian of Norwich (author) and Elizabeth Spearing (translator). Revelations of Divine Love. London: Penguin Classics. 1999.
Niagara Falls. Image. https://selectregistry.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/niagara-falls.jpg. Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.
Novak, Michael and Jana Novak. Washington's God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country. New York: Basic Books. 2006.
Shifen waterfall. Image. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/51/ShiFengWaterFall_002.jpg/1200px-ShiFengWaterFall_002.jpg. Accessed Nov. 2, 2020.