Easter Season Guest Author Series: the Rev. Mike Woods on Mark 16:3
by Rev. Mike Woods | April 12, 2018“They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’”
Have you ever noticed how, when you’re typing, if you get your fingers just one key off, everything becomes distorted? This usually happens in the dark, but has been known to happen with the lights on as well. If I set my left pointer finger on the “d” instead of the “f” (thank you 5th grade typing class), even though the action of typing feels normal, everything comes out wrong. One millimeter difference changes “hello there” to “gwkki rgwew.”
But, with the tiniest little shift of our fingers, suddenly everything makes sense, things become clear.
I was sitting in a staff meeting a few weeks back and one of my co-workers was sharing his story of how he ended up working at St. Mark’s. As many young people do, this young man had been wondering about what he was supposed to do with his life. He had spent the past year thinking and praying about what direction his life would take. In the meantime, he got a job cleaning floors and bathrooms at our church. Just an ordinary job, he would say, but something to get him out of his normal routine while he figured out what was next. He explained how there was a particular day at work when he was busy mopping the parish hall floor that God spoke to him. He said there wasn’t anything special about this day above any other day, and the task wasn’t any different than what was part of his normal routine. He was mopping floors and God spoke. He said it was as clear to him as anything else had ever been that he was supposed to go back to school to become an engineer. He said he knew in the moment that through this ordinary job, he found what he was supposed to do. An ordinary job with extraordinary results, I would say.
His story reminded me of a story of my own. During college, I would often take a day or two out of the month for myself for a quiet retreat. I would use this time to get away from the noise of school and the busy-ness of life. Getting back to nature, maybe my own nature, as it were, was where I found myself soaring instead of being stifled. I would usually end up at Enchanted Rock State Park with my tent in hand, hiking shoes on my feet, all the while looking for a change of rhythm. I felt like being close to the earth, the “outdoors”, would do me some good. My routine was the same each time I went. I would get my gear out and set up my campsite. Then, I would head up to the top of the large granite dome either from a boulder crack on the side of the dome or just trek up the main trail on the front side of the dome. Once at the top, I would find a quiet spot to sit so I could look out over the view and get lost in my thoughts.
A couple of friends of mine knew I took these trips and had been bugging me to go on one with me. So, in the midst of my own personal grumblings, I took them on my next trip. My two friends and I arrived at the park and unloaded our gear. We set up camp and then headed to the trail to get to the top of the dome. I asked them if they wanted to try something a bit more challenging by going up the boulder crack to the top and they both agreed it sounded fun and interesting. For the next two hours I coached, encouraged, laughed, learned, and journeyed with my two friends up the side of this huge granite dome. It was a journey of joy and clarity for me. I learned how in adjusting my own expectations and desires, that old journeys can be made new, can become life-giving.
As I sat with this phrase from the Gospel passage where the women worry over who will do this “thing,” this rolling of the stone, I wondered if their hearts were set on doing what was normal to them, what was routine, or just what needed to get done even in the midst of deep sorrow and despair. They were doing their ordinary duty as faithful followers of their leader and custom. Maybe it had been something they had done a hundred times before. They knew the routine and they knew what to expect. What they didn’t expect was to be surprised by God - not if they were worried about rolling away a rock. I’m not saying the women’s perspective was wrong, but I find it interesting how often their thoughts or my thoughts settle on mundane, practical, logistical things instead of divine things. I am quick to get caught up in my own daily-ness and routine, or my own expectations and desires that I sometimes forget to be able to be surprised by God. Isn’t this our Eastertide calling? To be surprised by new life?
If you’re in a place where your life feels “off” or where life doesn’t feel particularly incredible, maybe you don’t need a whole new life. Maybe you just need a millimeter adjustment, a tiny new perspective. And when you sit in that place, maybe everything will look different. God shows up in the ordinary and mundane. God shows up in our daily-ness and routine. God shows up in our grumbling and in our deepest sorrow and despair. God can’t help but show up. Sometimes we just need to shift our fingers over a bit to see it.
Mike is the Assistant to the Rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Marcos, TX.