I almost hit a guy tonight driving my silver Chevy Trax. It would have been a collision of flesh and bone against metal and motor. His outfit matched a starless night, at least I think it did, but it all happened so fast…. Suddenly, there he was, walking into oncoming traffic straddling the white line on the passenger side of my lane. Another car travelled parallel to me so I couldn’t move over—much….
100 yards later, my body started trembling, responding to what my brain already knew. My close enoucnter almost turned deadly. How might this very moment have been different had body and car collided? When the police officer came on the scene, who would have been determined to be at fault? Me or him? And how much would it matter if the guy’d ended up absolutely broken?
There’s been mostly a hush on my blog this year, the majority of my words spent on academic papers and a hefty reading list—31 books complete on Goodreads 2021. For everything there is a season and this year, listening rather than talking and reading more than writing have been my daily bread. I’m re-considering familiar frameworks, assimilating novel ideas, inputting new data and assembling it all like puzzle pieces linking together to create a more complete 3D picture of who I am and how I fit in my world. Ironically, the image keeps getting fuzzier—but maybe that’s because I buy my reading glasses at the dollar store. Or maybe it’s that the more I learn, the less I know about anything. Everything. Questions trump answers and some of them are my own, while others are the Mindbenders my kids ask, like the ones we bantered around over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Is male headship in marriage an expression of post-fall brokenness or of God’s design for gender?
What are the most productive days, times and locations for dumpster diving?
I wonder how God decided what Jesus was going to look like…
What can be learned from The Squid Games about depravity and desperation?
Can a relationship ever be healthy if there’s a power differential where the disempowered party isn’t free to walk away?
Which version of Taylor Swift’s Red is best?
What do you think about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict?
What are the most effective strategies for growing your retirement account?
And, what about real estate investing?
What does the biblical text in its original languages have to say about the role of women in church leadership? And what place do historic records and traditions play in determining God’s intent?
Which Little Women movie is the best and why?
How do enneagram-type combinations impact relationships?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Paul Young’s The Shack and it’s portrayal of God the Father as a Mother? And what to do about gender pronouns to describe God?
Who’s lying about being an operative when they’re really a spy in the board game The Resistance?
And, of all the Frasier fir Christmas trees on this farm, which one would be perfect for our living room?
None of our questions have quick and easy answers—at least for us. Ours is a tribe that could rival an old-fashioned podium pounding hell and brimstone preacher for the love of his or her conviction and it was into one of those kinds of moments that our mediator intervened with a lesson in Communication 101 she learned from a TED talk. “When people aren’t really listening but rather preparing their defensive responses, the conversation is zero on the productivity scale. Just saying.” And it’s not just us who needs that reminder. From the most public platforms to everyday hum-drum interactions, fault finding, finger pointing, moralizing monologues disguised as dialogue are now cliche. We’re so high on blaming the government, the economy, the liberals, the conservatives, the vaxers, the anti-vaxers, the CDC, BLM, the police officers, the feminists, secular culture, LGTBQ+ people, church leaders and christian nationalists, our sobriety to concentrate on human suffering has been compromised. Meanwhile, at the hospital we work at, the death toll keeps rising, one image bearing creation of God at a time, and relationships are arresting without resuscitation due to metastasized dogmatism.
This is what communal duress has exposed about us and it’s not pretty. But it’s also not all that we are.
We are also nurses and doctors who don our PPE methodically every time we enter a patient’s room. We treat sick human beings regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, religion or vaccination status. We do our best 24-7 day after week after month and now years. That’s plural. And when the virus wins, we walk our patients corpses down to the morgue on a gurney and then don our PPE again.
And we are morticians who care for the shell that remains when the spirit has departed. We administrate the rituals of closure and burial, providing needed services and care to grieving families in their darkest hours of raw grief.
And we are teachers, managing multiple educational platforms and adapting to ever changing expectations for the benefit of our students, to create learning environments that offer as much normalcy and stability as is possible.
And we are chaplains, pastors, counselors and social workers providing safe, secure, soothing support to anxious, fearful, grieving, despairing individuals and groups amidst skyrocketing suicide and divorce rates, each their own form of demise.
And we are supply chain producers who are tirelessly working against the domino effect to keep goods and services available to society in spite of complex barriers to production.
And we are more than what we do.
We simply are.
We are the objects of the affection of a supremely loving God who looks at all He has made with tenderness and incredible kindness. He actually knows who’s right, what’s right and how to do it right but He chooses instead to focus His gaze on our universal misery with unmerited compassion.
And that makes me grateful—which brings me back to Thanksgiving and our yearly recalibration of gratitude. This year, in addition to all the oldies, new voices, fresh perspectives and more maleness made our crowd better and more fun. I wait all year long for that morning where we walk and talk about the goodness of God in our stories. Our pictures mark time indelibly and remind us that we were together and it was good. The music, the puzzles, the games, the movie, the time around the table with 3 extra leaves, and an abundance of food and drink to share. Shoulder to shoulder, we thanked God that we are healthy and supplicated for the ones who aren’t.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to answer all of my questions. Or theirs. And some days that feels pretty paralyzing but not on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, we recount that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. And we tell each other what that’s been like in each of our stories. And on that day, I just feel grateful.