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Serenity on a noisy flight

BY REV DR JOHN FRAUENFELDER

An English writer and retreat leader, Margaret Silf, wrote in America about a plane trip she tool from Glasgow to Dubai.

When she boarded the flight she found herself, to her dismay, sitting across from a young mother and her boisterous two-year old. The young mother, whose gentle features were veiled by her hijab, responded to his tantrums calmly and tenderly, never raising her voice.

Her unhappy child was the focus of her complete attention. When the flight attendant came by with the meal, she patiently and lovingly fed him. The child responded with more demands and tears, more kicking and screaming, but the mother persevered.

Finally her patience was rewarded. The unhappy boy fell asleep, stretched across both their seats. The young mother squeezed herself into a tiny corner so as not to disturb him and, for a while, peace reigned. Perhaps now she could catch an hour of quiet for herself.

But the next time Silf glanced across the aisle, the woman had turned her face to the window. Her hands were outstretched in a way few would notice, but Silf recognised immediately. The woman was praying.

Silf felt herself enfolded in the serenity and then noticed the young mother’s face – a serenity more powerful than the heat of the child’s fury. Reflecting on the experience Silf writes: The human family often behaves like a fractious toddler, still perhaps in our infancy. When we fail to get what we want, we scream and fight for it. There are interludes of peace; but when we wake to the reality of our condition, our first response is to cry again and resume our inexorable demands on one another and on our earth. Only love is big enough to hold all this. Tonight, I have seen what love looks like in practice. I have seen the face of God in the heart of a loving mother. The Feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates the many ways God makes his presence known in our midst, in the manifestations of his love in our lives and our world. God is the very love that creates, nurtures and preserves – love that is Father/Maker, Son/Beloved, Spirit/Sustainer. We are all held and cared for in that love – a love too perfect and complete for us to even begin to understand. God’s love for us transcends the love of creator for his creation: God’s love becomes fully human for us in the person of Jesus, who taught us that God loves us like a Father loves his beloved sons and daughters and, in his resurrection, shows that God’s love for us extends beyond this world but well into the next. And, in the gift of his Spirit, we experience the fullness of God’s love in one another.

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