When I was in college, my roommate (who was also an English major) absolutely loved Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In spite of her persuasive recommendation, I confess to never having read the book. The title, however, remained in my mind for the simple realism it contained.
Things fall apart.
Boy, is the illusion of control exhausting for us to maintain. But I am happy to report that it can’t be done. Something will always happen to upset the proverbial apple cart. This sounds foreboding, I know. But it is actually quite freeing.
My family was very recently in an automobile accident. It was terrifying to say the least. And although we were not injured, it did cause a type of trauma. Feeling the impact as our truck hit the median spinning 180 degrees. My heart in my throat as I turned around to check on my loved ones and exhaling in relief as I saw that everyone was safe. Seeing the horrible damage to our vehicle,and realizing anew our dependence on God was humbling to the core. For the few days afterwards, everything felt tenuous and shaky as I walked around in a kind of fog.
As I was praying through some of the anxiety, I was reminded of Julian of Norwich’s vision of a hazelnut:
“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it
was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and
thought “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is
made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have
sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.”
In reading through these words again, I could imagine the love of God as a kind of covalent bonding agent, holding our very existence together, and my whole perspective changed.
Although Julian was devoted to the service of God and prayer, she had not been sheltered from tragedy. Scholars surmise that her family had likely died of the black plague. She understood the fragility of life. But she also knew that the love of God was deeper than any sorrow she might experience.
Things will continue to fall apart, it’s just the way it is. Some are meant to, and some we smash to smithereens through our own devices. I pray for the grace to let them fall, knowing that the God of the hazelnut holds me in the hollow of his hand.