We are all linked

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

So far, lent has had an unusual feel this year for me. I have heard a few people say that it seems lent has already lasted a year, and not just a few days. I am certainly finding it more difficult than usual to change pace – to slow down and reflect.

A story I read recently has taken me out of my usual routine and made me think, though. It was written by Anton Chekov and is very short indeed (you could easily read it in ten minutes). Called The Student, it tells of a trainee priest who is walking home on a bitterly cold Good Friday evening. He stops at the house of two widows (mother and daughter) to warm himself by a fire they are burning outside. As the three of them are standing together, Ivan (that’s his name) is reminded of Peter stopping by a fire as he follows Jesus at a distance after his arrest.

And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it.
“Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

Luke 22, 55-57

As Ivan retells the Bible story to the women, one begins to cry.

On the way home, Ivan thinks about this and something amazing happens. He starts to realize that something in the story touched the older widow because she recognized something of her own story in that of Peter’s. That she was near to him, that (as Chekov puts it) “her whole being was interested in what was passing in Peter’s soul”. Ivan then extends this thought, and recognizes that we are all connected by our ability to feel the same things. Unsurprisingly, he puts it better than I do:

“The past,” he thought, “is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another.” And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered.

Anton Chekov, The Student

And then an enormous unburdening comes over Ivan – a feeling of God’s hope floods through him. He is suddenly light and joyful, and the way Chekov describes this feeling is as if we ourselves are sharing it with him:

the feeling of youth, health, vigor – he was only twenty-two – and the inexpressible sweet expectation of happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness, took possession of him little by little, and life seemed to him enchanting, marvellous, and full of lofty meaning.

Anton Chekov, The Student

So I pray that out of a current landscape which looks fairly bleak to many of us may spring moments of sudden and unexpected joy. Because connections are at the centre of our lives as Christians: connections with each other, connections with all those who have gone before us and who have felt exactly the same emotions as we feel today, and a connection with Him in whose limitless grace we all live.

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