Maybe it's because I've been editing a few history books lately, but I've come to the conclusion that while times never were what they ought to be, they were neither as bad as we suspect nor as good as we recall.
It's tempting to romanticize bygone eras; to wax sentimental about life in medieval monasteries or the villages that surrounded them; to dream of glorious cathedrals under construction; to imagine knights riding east, a band of mendicant preachers on foot, and cloistered nuns; to relish the distant sound of bells and voices chanting vespers. I know how tempting it is because I fall to it too often, usually on days when the world seems particularly hostile to faith, to anything that hints of cross or Christ.
Invariably, though, I come back to the world we're in and realize that we are in it not by chance. You and I were made for here and now, and not for the way we wish things were, but precisely for the way they are. I did not live in other times because I do not belong to them. Each one of us is placed and purposed by divine design.
Maybe it's because I've been editing a few history books lately, but I've come to the conclusion that while times never were what they ought to be, they were neither as bad as we suspect nor as good as we recall. History is a stretched out change of seasons. Empires and temperatures rise and fall. Wars and elections are won and lost. Great leaders and cruel tyrants come and go. Scandals and reforms erupt and fade away. Few things survive the tectonic shifts along history's fault lines. And because of this, it is good to remember that there is one constant, one northern star around which everything else travels: the supreme goodness of the God who is love.
There are times that may seem better to us, or worse. But in every one of them the love of God is our only anchor; the only safe harbor for our lives, the sole foundation sure enough to build on. This love has inspired and animated human hearts in every age. It has been requited and expressed in grand artistic endeavors, in wars against injustice, in heroic self-sacrifice, in simple acts of kindness, and in humble words of prayer.
God's love lives in the world. It is never far from us because he promised to remain with us always. It is not buried in time capsule or hidden only to be discovered at some future date. And when we can't find it where we are, perhaps it is because we are looking for it somewhere else, somewhere we are not.
Each era has its challenges. Pestilence and plague aren't any less worrisome than addiction or anxiety. So, when I can't watch the news anymore and begin hiding posts on my Facebook feed, I take a deep breath and remember that God's love is as present and available to me as it was and will be to his disciples at every other time in history. Here and now is part of his plan for me. I may become tired or discouraged from time to time, but all the things I find so difficult will pass. His love remains.
Yes, the incense is sweet. But if I stop long enough to come to silence, I can smell its lingering fragrance across the centuries. Perhaps in our days the tallow has indeed burned low, yet the light glows. Some things do not change. Our God reigns still and forever. He is king of every era and age, every here and now. In him, justice and mercy are one, for his throne is the cross and his scepter love.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.