Where do diaries go when they have reached their use by date? Mine are stored in a drawer, sometimes for years, until I have a clean- up and out they go. My 2016 diary is quite handsome; not very big but with a cover that is reminiscent of a medieval manuscript with a toning marker ribbon and a dinky little fold in the back cover just right for storing reminder cards for the doctor, my current hairdresser, the car mechanic and other essential services. I’m going to miss its elegance.
My 2017 diary is distinguished by a slim little biro that fits snugly into the spine of the book, very handy for on the spot notes, phone numbers and email addresses. I am computer literate and my phone is one of those smart ones that does everything – well, usually- but I prefer pen and paper. So next week I’ll spend an hour or so writing in the family birthdays and anniversaries and checking the dates for my pre-booked Melbourne Theatre Company performances. The rest will be blank, waiting for what might come.
The dates and times, the names, the abbreviations in my 2016 diary are shorthand for the stories they hold. 11am coffee with Teresa was way more than coffee. It was a safe place to talk about the concerns we have for our adult children. Chiropractic appointments eased my arthritic joints and wriggly spine, reminding me of God’s physical healing in another’s hands. There are due dates for bills, wrapped in a silent prayer of gratitude that there is enough money to cover whatever is owing. A cryptic single word, Sydney spoke of a long-anticipated trip that didn’t live up to expectations. It was like Emmaus all over again, “I had hoped, but . . . “ The older I get the more often those words could fill in the spaces in my diary.
The spaces in my diary are the ordinary times, the days when the only thing that differs from the day before might be the weather or whether or not we need milk. It’s easy to say that God is found in the ordinary of my life but living inside them can often feel very flat and uneventful. I know the theory but in practice I fall into the trap of believing that the little details of my life are beneath God’s interest. Lost in dreams of what might be I fail to recognise God’s presence in the tedium of deciding what to cook for dinner or cleaning the bathroom.
Paula D’Arcy, a US writer and retreat leader who often works with Father Richard Rohr, says “God comes to you disguised as your life.” It reminds me of that verse in the Gospels when Jesus says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”. Well, most days no one knocks at my door, and the phone doesn’t ring, and all my emails are ho-hum. Nevertheless. God stands there waiting for me to open up and let him in – into the commonplace, the mess and the uneventfuls that make up the ordinary of my days.
However you mark your days – on a frig calendar, on your phone or ipad, or like me in a day by day diary, and whether your days are cluttered with appointments or full of what seems like nothing, may you recognise the God who is waiting to find you there every day in 2017.