by Catherine Malotky

GRACIOUS GOD, YOU CREATED US. We are all figments of your imagination, come to life. Sometimes we reflect well on you. Sometimes not so much. But we are your creation, and we stand humbly in your presence, grateful for the gift of life and your intention for our thriving.

One feature of living, in particular, can trip us up: the fact that change is a constant. When we are very young, we are unaware, but our parents can see it. Little ones, on the verge of walking, can be crabby and impatient. They stand on the cusp of something that will change their lives and the lives of those who love them. There is a time when little ones babble away. When they become conscious that they are not communicating clearly, once again, impatience can dominate their interactions.

Slowly, they learn to share and not share. Their empathetic instincts become more conscious. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they become conscious of their own capacity to be mean, selfish and demanding. Sometimes they can acknowledge this. Sometimes not.

It’s not so different for adults, really. The circumstances of our lives demand things of us, and we are challenged to change. New parents learn to live without sleep, amid the constant demands of their children. New workers learn about brand identity, showing up on time and pulling their load—even if they don’t feel like it. As we age, we learn to adapt to aches and limitations we didn’t have before. Yet again, we learn to rebalance our lives between our own needs and the needs of others.

And we are challenged by changing ideas, ideas that may at first strike us as wrong, and then make us feel uneasy, and then, slowly, win us over. In time, we leave our old way of understanding behind.

These changes can make us crabby and impatient as we adjust. We have seen this, haven’t we, over the last several years?

Though there was a time before vaccines when many died of illnesses we can now prevent, it was a change in 2020 to have to think about the air as potentially contagious. We were used to managing our own health as we pleased. Now to be asked to think of others, to take on an inconvenience (a vaccine, a mask) to protect more vulnerable others?

This was a change. We found ourselves needing to leave behind our personal sense of safety and autonomy if we were going to live in community. We needed to be willing to give for the sake of another.

Communities have suffered. The things that bound us together in the past—gathering, agreeing, a shared understanding of history and traditions, a common sense of doing the right thing—have been challenged. We have been asked to leave things behind, to learn new ways, to entertain new ideas about who we are and how we have come to be.

Hold us, God, as we build this new quilt, cutting, shaping, and binding ourselves and our communities once again. Hold before us a vision of your goodness, that we might envision each other as you do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Rev. Catherine Malotky is an ELCA pastor, retired from full-time paid work for the sake of dear relationships and interests.

Quilt by Shari Jones, “Every Day A New Day,” 2017 Women of the ELCA “All Anew” Quilt Challenge.

This is excerpted from the July/August 2022 issue. To read more articles like it, subscribe to Gather magazine.