Naked and Afraid

 

My younger two children are perfecting the art of bickering, expanding the field of play in limitless ways each day.  Whether or not a car is in fact “tiny”, did the other intend to turn the water off before the second could brush teeth, whether a scratch happened knowingly, whether the radio should remain on this song or be changed, who gets to sit in which seat in a choice of the same three in our back seat, did the “hot potato” game end on one or the other, and on and on and on.  The power struggle, the need to be right, the need to win, the need…

For what could be the thousandth time, I spent an hour and a half yesterday on the sidelines of my oldest daughter’s soccer game at a tournament in Florida.  The stands were filled with frustrated voices, disappointed in the defense, mad at the ref’s call, mad that a child was taken out of the game, then I looked down the sidelines and an actual fight had broken out between parents over the ref’s work.  Was the fight sparked because of inherent racism, as the initial visual appeared, or sparked by grown-ups who have lost all perspective on what is worth losing their dignity (and cool) over in life?

It can feel like disdain, disgruntlement, discontent, disconnect and displeasure are the ruling forces of relationships.   Division and distrust are more guaranteed experiences of each day than unity and affection, pleasure and delight.  Why is this humanity’s default mode?  How do we engage differently without being trampled in its stampede?

This bickering started in the beginning of humanity’s story:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Gen. 3:4-7

Distrust of God’s goodness, God’s ability, God’s plan, God’s wisdom convinces us that we know better than God, can choose better than God, don’t need God.  Almost immediately, like the promise of the Emperor’s New Clothes, our eyes being opened doesn’t make us as smart as God but rather exposes the reality that we never will be, that we are naked and left vulnerable in all senses.  Our fig leaves don’t cover well, but God made a covering to restore our dignity and remove our shame.

Even so, the pull is there.  Now I’m covered and free of shame, so I can move on without God.  I no longer need Him since he has met my need.  Maybe if we ban together, we can do it well without Him!

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Gen. 11:8-9

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:24-25

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.  For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. Luke 12:51-53

Eyes opened to realize what we do not know, our vulnerability, our weakness.  Division not as a wizard’s dark magic or a White Witch’s always winter and never Christmas, but as a tangible reminder that, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zech. 4:6  The hunger in the desert was to remind His people that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.  Deut. 8

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. Acts 2:2-6

We inject ourselves with small doses of influenza to protect ourselves from the flu.  God shows us our proclivity toward division, suicidal independence and the impossibility of making it right or good on our own to show us His good, His power, His guaranteed plan and His wisdom that we were tempted to distrust from the beginning.

My own heart is so set to find fault with others, to back away from others, to separate myself from others and to be dismayed by my inability to live otherwise and at peace with all.  My Gospel amnesia persuades me to believe I either can do nothing to change “the way it is” or need to buckle down and lecture/bribe/threaten my children into loving well.  O ye of little faith.  “If my people who are called by name would humble themselves”, this is me, not a rally or an event or a public spectacle, but one heart acknowledging that I can’t but He can.  I need to pray, not just ponder.  I need to seek and trust in His power, not my perpetual pushing.

But what is my hope for change?  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  I suppose seeing the bickering, the division, the distance and the “trouble” as evidence of His word and my need for it.

Loving in the Divide

 

I am tired of conflict.  I am tired of the small conflict that happens between child siblings and that happens between co-workers and that happens between roommates.  I am tired of the large conflicts that happen in churches, in marriages, between neighbors and in families.  I am tired of the generational conflicts that happen between nations, tribes and cultures.  I am tired of the blame, the wounds that can’t heal, and the blindness of both victimizer and victim to our own contribution to the division.

But more than even the existence of conflict, which is with us until all things are made new, is the question of how to exist in it.  We are compelled to choose a side, but want to be sure it is the winning side.  But choosing a side is rarely choosing people, not even the person on that side, but often more about personal identification instead.  I get lost in the setting and forget the characters.  I feel the feelings of others, their agitation, their sense of being judged, their desire to be approved and yet feeling disapproval, their weariness of being patient, their confusion over the wrong committed, their inability to see as the other person sees and the reality that they may be entering with very different goals even from the beginning.

I want white people globally to care about the world’s history of favoring lighter skinned humans over darker ones, and how this reality may not be apparent to people in light skin but is experienced in big and small ways every single day by the darker skinned folks.  I would like the darker skinned humans, who have born with patience this injustice since the beginning of time, to by grace alone continue to resist the reasonable solution to demonize all lighter skinned participants in this system (which is all of us) because we haven’t collectively figured out how to correct the macro-course yet.  I want highly logical processors to be gracious with highly emotional processors and in return, for those highly emotional processors to assume the best of the logical friend’s perspective.  I want the humans who are deeply focused on moral codes to love better, and the humans who are deeply focused on inclusion to include those moral code focused folks too.

I judge my neighbor, my friends, my family and myself.  I want peace.  I want every incorrectly phrased thought not to be weighed as if it is the final plea before a firing wall. I want to be human in all the error and sloppiness that entails, without the judgment and increasingly too expensive cost of not doing or saying it “correctly”.  I want the freedom to be in process.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:11-12

Grace.  I need grace.  I need grace to have spoken too soon, to have said too much, to be misunderstood or properly understood and resented.  I need grace to be called a racist and to examine where in fact there is truth to that accusation.  I need grace to be inaccurately counted among the “all those (fill in the blank)” and to endure it as a small taste of what others have lived in for their whole existence.  I need grace to sit in conflict and let it remain unresolved today, tomorrow and maybe until Jesus comes back.  I need to remove myself and my approval rating from the list of prerequisites to love freely and well.  I need to be less concerned with my reputation in a conflict and with my need to emerge unscathed.  Need less, love more, right?  I cannot love well or generously until it isn’t about me at all.  To be liked or disliked, to be approved or judged harshly, or judged mildly for that matter, should all be irrelevant to the way I love others.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.   Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.   And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36