I met a friend the other night and he said his latest joke is letting people know how exhausting it is for him to always be right, because he can see clearly into the future. We began laughing at the ridiculousness of this together, and then carried on our conversations, both of us acting as if we can see clearly into the future.
I spent the entire day yesterday joining in on, an hour at a time, the lives of others who find themselves at the end. It may be crippling depression, recent diagnosis of illness, recent shift of parental figure yet again, recent divorce, recent infidelity, on and on. I sit up in my chair and play serious with adults and prop myself up on elbows on the floor and play silly with children.
They don’t need me to tell them what to do, how to respond, what to feel or how to proceed next. In many ways, I’m responsible to listen well and in so doing invite them to listen well to themselves, often for the first time in a long time.
And I’m reminded this morning, riding an old Amtrak feelings myself a part of a different era, of how inside all of the stories in which I became a fly on the wall of yesterday, we are all of us, me and them, quite sure that we can see the future. We are more hesitant to admit it, but we are.
And we are most sure when we’ve reached the end of possibilities. Times get tough, we look around, and realized that the train has made it all the way to the station and there’s nothing more to hope for.
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. – Acts 16
It is, of course, after all hell has broken loose. It’s after the end has flashed across the screen. It’s after the train has made it all the way into the station.
It’s always past the very end when the whole earth shakes, unbreakable things blow apart, and something very new and very unforeseen becomes very real.
And we can all believe.
City of New Orleans, Amtrak