Planes cartwheeling down the runway. Reputations and livelihoods lost over a careless word uttered three decades ago. A neighbor loses his legs in a freak train accident. Friends battle over custody of their boys. Emergency root canals set us back $3,000 we didn’t have. A son faints for no apparent reason, over and over and over. A pain in the stomach bites, but you’re too afraid to call the doctor.
Sometimes it’s hard to see where God is in it all. We say we believe in His sovereignty, but deep down we fear our world is twirling out of control and we see no sense, no rhyme in it.
And then, unexpectedly, right in the middle of weeding the new flower beds, a chiming: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” and then one, two, three, four, five, six, seven—for that is what time it was this morning when worries came my way. Of all the features the new house offered, I never expected this, this call to worship, interrupting my thought (aka “worry”) process and the mud under fingernails and sweat pouring already in the Kansas heat.
The bells conjure images of monks and nuns, words like matins and vespers, things I know only the periphery of. My former experience of church bells tolling was those in The Sound of Music, where they awaken Maria from her lyrical reverie on the mountaintops and she runs, quickly, to worship.
Not being Catholic or Orthodox, bells have never been part of my spiritual life, but they’re starting to be. Eight a.m., mid-walk, puppy in tow, I hear them call worshipers to mass. Nine o’clock, making breakfast, they toll again. I crack open the kitchen door so I can figure out what hymn they are playing (“Blessed Assurance”). And so it goes, throughout the day, on the hour, this breaking into my own reverie, of motherhood and work and roast making, calling me, reminding me, pulling my mind back to God things.
And, no matter what I’m doing, when I hear them, I stop. How can you not? They command attention. Sitting at the pool for the kids’ swimming lessons, the other mothers and I stop our conversation. We wait and we listen and we are calmed in this forcing of silence. Whatever worries we were discussing suddenly seem trivial. Baby isn’t potty training on schedule, but “All Hail the Power” is ringing and we are worrying about that?
Planes cartwheel and they say the slides opened the wrong direction. How can this be? Are these things not tested a million times? Is life really this perilous, even with the strangulating safety measures our government saddles us with?
Either way, the bells toll, wooing us to worship. To pause our weeding and breathe. For though we live under a curse, we are not abandoned to fate, nor to the ultimate effects of that curse, No matter how we feel, we have not been abandoned.
Twelve times a day, the bells remind me.