Columnists > Voices

End of the ordinary

Exceptional days point to the truth about each and every day

Issue: "'Darkest moment'," April 28, 2007

There is something insidious about the bakery. It's on my route when Spider and I take our 6 a.m. constitutional, and I spot its warmly lit window on Keswick and Mt. Carmel from a block away. Daryl's pastry shop speaks to me thusly: "There now, Andrée, I'm here. As always. And everything is all right. Those silly notions you had on your bed last night, about battles to the death in unseen spheres, and all your pretty tales, don't they seem silly by the morning's light."

Except on Mondays. Mondays are mildly disturbing: Daryl's is closed then, and all is not right with the world. The problem is that the closing of one day is the harbinger of the closing of all days. A time will come when Daryl (who has got to be 70) will bake her last chocolate croissant and sell the business. Perhaps the Paris salon next door that's had its covetous eye on more square footage will finally prevail.

But even that will be a way station. A starker day comes: "Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down" (Matthew 24:2).

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I lost my job two weeks ago, after eight years of making tuna-cran roll-ups. Came to work in the morning and went through all the usual routines, not knowing I was executing each one for the last time. An inspector arrived the same morning at the request of the bookstore above, who sought his imprimatur on new bookcases. He took one look at the 1898 structure, and at the codes, and shut us down immediately. The cheese is sliced, the wraps are thawed, and the café hum is silenced in a single hour.

We put our trust in the darnedest things. The reliability of the No. 22 bus to Willow Grove Mall. The "anchor" stores at the mall. The sun rises in the east every day and we think it is on autopilot, rather than a servant doing its rounds one more time because the Master commands it so. Someday the Master will say, "Enough. The time is come." When my husband was diagnosed with the illness that took his life, I didn't believe he would die because, well, he wasn't the type to die.

The comfort of the ordinary lulls us to a mañana state of mind. Then comes Columbine and we are shaken out of it for a week. Then comes Virginia Tech eight years later like the delayed aftershock of an earthquake. The Maker is breaking the beguilement of the ordinary and calling our attention upward:

"The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes; He does not keep silence; before Him is a devouring fire, around Him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people" (Psalm 50:1-4).

There are no "ordinary days." There is always the tug of war of demons and angels, even if the battle is sometimes below the radar screen. The bucolic times in the Blue Ridge Mountains that preceded an April day of infamy were the days the plot was hatched in secret places. There are two kinds of days only: times of God's forbearance when He stays His judgment; times when He no longer stays His judgment. God says of every inch of the universe: Mine.

We have a new pastor and he does things a little differently. Before the preaching of the Word he reads the passage and then always adds: "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25).

There is a liberation in that if you will have it. It works in me this way: I will put up with your bad habits if you will put up with mine. In fact, let us agree to do better than that. It's just a little while more, after all. And no longer will I be seduced by the flickering light in the flickering existence of a pastry shop.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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