Like any parents, Cherry and I would do anything to protect our children from harm. Lately, I have been trying to imagine what it would have been like for us to have to gather up our three children when they were little and run for our lives. Considering the massive refugee problem in the world today, I think Jesus is asking everyone who lives in a country that is capable of granting asylum to imagine these things. “Do to others, as you would have them do to you,” he said. And as an American Christian, I am troubled right now.
When the Angel Gabriel visited the young Virgin Mary, it is no surprise that she was “troubled” and that she “cast in her mind what this might mean.” It’s an interesting expression. I cast into the ocean, and 90 percent of the time, I reel my line back in with absolutely nothing, except maybe a little seaweed. It’s like that when we are worried or troubled – we cast in our minds repeatedly, wondering what’s happening and what we should do, and each time our line comes back with nothing. When that happens to me, my feeling of being “troubled” or “perplexed” can start to turn into dread, anxiety, and even terror.
When I wake gently after a good night’s sleep, there is something about that quiet, in-between space that feels especially holy. If I’ve been dreaming, I often try to remember the particulars of my dream, wondering what God, angels, and the spirit world might be trying to tell me through the unconscious. Sometimes I’ll gradually start to become aware of sounds that usually go unnoticed – my own breathing, the rustling of wind in the trees, birds singing. It is a dreamy, open space in which I am gradually moving from a place of deep surrender and vulnerability, a place where I have not had any control whatsoever.
Whether your presidential candidate won or lost, one thing most of us can agree on is that we all woke up on November 9 having wandered far in a land that is waste. It reminds me of the prodigal son who woke up one day in a pig sty. He just felt dirty, depleted, and wanted to go home. Whether your candidate won or lost, you might have felt something like that – a little dirty, depleted, and wishing you could go back to a time and place when you felt less anxious about life and more at ease with the people around you.
I have been giving a series of reflections at church recently on “Buried Treasure,” a conviction I have about something beautiful, true, and life-giving that perhaps is buried in the field of every one of our lives. But the run-up to the presidential election has had me wondering about another reality in every one of our lives: buried trash.
You’ve probably had the experience of driving on a long trip, making good time on the interstate, when suddenly you see ahead that things are slowing to a crawl. It doesn’t make sense – it’s not rush hour, and you’re nowhere near a busy city. An hour later, after you’ve covered less ground in your car than you could have on foot, you discover the problem. There’s been a wreck, and everyone needed to slow down, not for safety’s sake, but just to get a good, long, gawkish look.
This summer, I wrote a blog post about traveling with my oldest son who does a lot of traveling for his work. Time and again, he led me to special VIP lanes in the airport, and at first I felt pretty self-conscious about it all, walking past so many people who were in the lines I usually inhabit, lines that snake back and forth and that take forever. The truth is that I’ve never liked these frequent traveler VIP lanes – the air of superiority feels wrong – but now that I was benefiting, I was enjoying it. Time and again, my son had to point to me and tell officials, “He’s with me,” because I didn’t have all the points or the Platinum, Gold Star, Emerald status he had, and just like that, I was in.
One of the best books I read all summer was also the shortest, Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. A person can easily read it in a day or two, which is good, because if you’re like me, you’ll want to pick it up later and read it all over again. From the first pages, I found myself thinking, The perfect stewardship program for a parish church would be for the clergy person in charge simply to tell his or her congregation, ‘Read this book, keep in mind what the mission of the church is all about, and then make your pledge.’