That's how I was tempted to answer my phone--for years on end!--when all my kids were little, and life was just one incomprehensible crisis after another. Here I was, trying to follow all the rules, and the universe refused to cooperate. What was I doing wrong?
Maybe that's what the Magi and the Holy Family felt like sometimes. (Yes, this post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for longer than I'd like to admit, and it's now out of sync with the season. Let's just congratulate me for getting back on track at all and consider it very, very early for 2018, shall we?)
At the Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany the other day, the choir started off with an intricately discordant piece--very beautiful, if you listened carefully, but disquieting, even so. It seemed a strange choice for such a joyful feast. But then I thought about it a little more.
The nativity scene in our church is a beauty, but it makes clear how un-luxurious the Baby's surroundings are, too. The King of the Universe naps in a feeding trough. Joseph must feel like such a failure as a provider! The Magi finally get there, but they have to go home by another route. Maybe they're frustrated that with all their purported wisdom they hadn't realized what a dangerous thing they'd done in alerting Herod to the Baby's whereabouts. And then the flight to Egypt, of all places--the very land the Chosen People had to flee when the Old Testament Herod, the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, was killing all those other little Jewish boys way back when.
And then when Jesus was (almost) a teenager (an episode that makes many mothers secretly feel a little less inadequate), his parents lose track of him in Jerusalem and head off without him. With everything that was riding on their childrearing, you'd think God could have prevented that.
Maybe it's an American thing. When things are going smoothly, we imagine we're on the right track. When they get muddled, we wonder where we went wrong. And when we do indisputably fail at something--like finding a decent cradle for the Son of God, or keeping track of Him during a family road trip--we tend to assume that there must be some mistake, and that the Almighty picked the wrong person to put His trust in.
We underestimate His tolerance for chaos, you could say. We doubt His ability to orchestrate the discord and produce a beautiful, haunting melody.
I'm not saying all chaos is desirable. Sometimes it's more like a toddler banging on the piano than the artistry of some subtle musician. But sometimes the melody is there; it's just that we don't have ears to hear it.