My Saint Michael’s Story: Tola Marts

Posted by on Sun, Sep 15, 2019 in Giving

One evening when my daughter was about nine years old, and I was tucking her in, she asked me a question.

“Daddy, you know how the universe is so big, and that our gigantic galaxy is just one tiny little galaxy among millions?”

“Yeahhhh…” I said warily.

“And how the universe goes on and on, and it’s so big you can’t even see the edge? And it might not even have an edge?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, that’s kind of scary. When you really think about it for a while. Maybe not scary- unsettling.”

“Yeah, it sure is,” I agreed.

Then she got to her question: “what do grownups do when they feel so unsettled? How do you feel better?”

I said that unsettled feeling happens to all of us, young and old, from time to time, and about various topics. And that there’s no simple answer, no magical cure. You just have to recognize that there are some very big questions and ideas in the universe, and try your best to sort of chip away at your understanding of them. As to the immensity of the universe, I told her that it was pretty comforting to know the universe is so large and can hold a multitude of different kinds of life, and that some of that life might even at that moment be looking to stars, contemplating the immensity of the universe.

This answer didn’t seem to entirely satisfy her, but it gave her enough to ponder that she was able to fall asleep.

When we are children, we look to our parents for the answers to all the questions. Why are we sometimes happy? Why are we sometimes sad? Why do we love? Why do we love and yet wind up losing those we love? Why are some people nice, and others mean? Why do we sometimes fail despite our best efforts? Why do sometimes good things happen to us, but then other times bad things happen to us? How do we go on when the saddest things happen?

As we get to our preteen years, we realize that our parents don’t have all the answers. Then we get to our teenage years, and we realize that not only do our parents not have all the answers, but they are wrong about everything and in fact we have all the answers. Then in about our mid-twenties, we realize that we don’t have all the answers, and in fact our parents are pretty smart after all. And we start families, and our parents have good ideas about how to do that too.

And then we start to lose our parents, and our parents generation. We realize that we are now the serious grownups, and there are no simple and easy places to find answers. And all eyes are looking to us. To where do we turn? “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is not a great conversation starter in the break room at work.

For me, St. Michael’s has been a vital part of my ongoing efforts to find answers to life’s questions. Take a moment and look to the people one row in front of you. Now to the people one row behind. We are all here because we have these same questions, and this need to bring sense and order to a world that sometimes looks like it has neither.

This is not the seventeenth century. None of us are here on this believe-it-or-not late summer morning (when we could be watching the Seahawks game) because we fear losing our jobs or our homes or our social standing. No, we are all here because we feel it important to convene and find fellowship with other people who share our same view of the world.

I never feel bad talking about big questions here. Yes, sometimes someone wants to talk to me about traffic on Gilman, and that’s fine too, but there is a palpable ease with which we all here talk with one another that we just don’t find in our secular day-to-day lives.

I frequently find myself when I’m walking into church wrestling with a particularly thorny issue, and I always without fail leave St. Michael’s feeling better, or at least with a plan for how to address the thing that has been vexing me. And part of this is that I do believe God answers my prayers here in a different way than at home- or perhaps I am just listening better. But part of it is often that I have a conversation before or after service, or hear something in Mother Katherine’s sermon, that speaks to my concerns.

So this is what St. Michael’s means to me. A place where like minded people gather to share and work through the same big questions I do, seeking the answers in scripture and fellowship. My journey through life with my family and my community wouldn’t be as rich or as informed without St. Michael’s, and without all of you.