by Holly Mohr
“So are we going to get a better grill this summer?” my husband asks, chopping tomatoes. It’s the first sunny day in Pittsburgh in what feels like months, and his mind is moving to al fresco dining season.
“There’s a gas line out front,” he adds, assuming I know what that means.
“Gas line . . . doesn’t that mean things will blow up?” I ask in a monotone.
“So little faith in me!” Eric says.
“It’s not you, it’s the gas line. Honestly, I have little faith in anything . . . since . . . since . . .”
“Since what?” he asks.
It feels crazy to me to have to spell it out. At the same time, I’m relieved that one of us seems to be functional all the time. It would be harder if both of us were constantly trying to square it all viscerally.
I’ve felt numb since the beginning of Holy Week, which is basically the opposite of how I normally experience that particular slice of life. I’m usually giddy by Holy Thursday morning.
If giddiness strikes you as inappropriate on Holy Thursday, that’s because it is. But generally speaking, I am simply unable to contain myself at the most meaning-filled time of the liturgical year. Yes, Jesus is heading off to the Garden of Gethsemane, but how anyone resists the intoxicating mixture of profound theology with spiritual pathos and aesthetic precision is beyond me. I mean, really: Church gets dark, a ridiculous number of candles are lit, a line of people starts marching around chanting medieval hymns in tones so haunting even Heathcliff and Catherine would stand back in awe. Then groups of people go off into the darkness on church crawls until morning. It’s really more exciting than I can usually stand. But this year, I saw it, it moved me a little, but mostly, I walled up my heart. Holy Week was all business for me. My lack of capacity to fully enter in scared me a little.
I spell it out as Eric continues to chop.
“Since . . . Trump was elected, even by people who compared him to Hitler. Since a mass shooting happened at a synagogue a mile and a half from our house, and instead of adults coming together to work for reasonable gun laws, our kids’ school got a metal detector, reminding them every morning that yes, they have every reason to be mortally afraid.
“Since the Pennsylvania Clergy Abuse report came out, and instead of falling to its knees in compunction and reparation, the institution that taught us how to repent and seek Truth has instead chosen the path of “minimizing damage,” acting as though we should all just move on. Acting as though this hasn’t lacerated the very heart and credibility of the place we all learned to encounter Christ, but now approach with trauma and confusion.
“Since a global pandemic broke out, and first the president pretended it wasn’t happening, and then we all had to keep our children home from school for two years and somehow find a way to survive anyway, realizing there really is no plan to take care of anyone in this, the most powerful nation in the entire world.
“Since yet another unarmed black man was killed on tape and our white neighbors and friends started to care for a hot minute, then started calling the Black Lives Matter Movement a terrorist organization again. Since just as people of so many different backgrounds started to feel the need for systemic change and redressing of injustice, a movement to “ban” critical race theory started instead, stymying meaningful discussion and action. Again.
“Since the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed and we realized we really are just hoping for the best every time we cross any of the 400 bridges in our city, that infrastructure really is a crapshoot. Since the bottom really literally has fallen out from under us, at least on Forbes Ave.
“Since a major world power went into its next-door neighbor’s country and decided to just eat it up. That that not only means destruction for Ukraine, but the threat of nuclear war for all of us.”
I want to add “since my dad died and I’m having major object permanence issues and existential dread,” but that one feels a little too on the nose.
“Well, yeah.” Eric looks up. He gets it, and also, he’s dreaming about grilling. I appreciate that he hears me, but he doesn’t spiral with me. And he really does do some kickass grilling.
It’s jarring to me to speak it out loud, this reality that I really have lost some hope, that though we have entered the most objectively joyful time of year, I’m not entirely here for it.
At the same time, this erosion of faith in institutional structures does not mean erosion of faith in everything. It does have me finding hope in some new places. Yes, my panic has increased, yes, I miss trusting in the basic functioning of our society (is that overstated? I’m genuinely not sure), but seeing the cracks reminds me of my own responsibility to continue helping co-create the world. I remember having a feeling when I was very young (and probably for far too long after) that the structures around us (infrastructure, family life, Church, political structures) are pretty much givens. The exist, they will continue to exist, and they are not mine to tamper with—they’re simply mine to inherit, to obey, to use, maybe to help bolster.
It’s no longer possible to remain such a consumerist child. That’s the upside. Now when I approach a bridge, I think to myself, “Well, hell, I really, really hope this one stays up today,” as my breathing gets shallower and my hands go clammy.
At the same time, I think to myself, “Someone constructed this bridge. Many, many people worked together to make this passage possible. That’s incredible. And if I value having the capacity to cross this huge body of water, I need to vote for people who care about infrastructure. I need to appreciate the communities this bridge unites. I need to pray prayers of gratitude, not only prayers of panicked petition, about all the times I have crossed this bridge safely.”
“I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
The sad isn’t going away yet, and I’m not going to force it. Someday, maybe even someday soon, I will again say in wide-eyed astonishment, “My Lord and my God!”
But the earth groans in labor pains until then. Or at least I do.