Our Divided States

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.13.59 AM Endeavoring to be slow to speak means some might say I am too late to speak, but as I emerge from the mosh pits of celebration and solidarity that the District of Columbia has been the past week, all I can think is: Lord, make me slow to speak, even, sometimes, slow to hear. Close my ears to the rhetoric that makes good argument but fails to consider the Creator God. Close my mouth to sides and stances and cheers and chants.

The art of scrolling is one at which I am adept and my fingers were properly exercised this week, one image after another, one short video after another, one article after another, friends, peers, young ones, jubilant in their political position. Even now, days later, when my friends are breathless with pride or heartbroken with fear, I try to hear them, longer, longer, wait for it. But my heart is broken.

It was Sanctity of Life Sunday, carefully scheduled for the Sunday after the inauguration and before the March for Life—a time of maximum emotion, high polarity, and certain bandwagoning—and from the pulpit he spoke of gun control, the death penalty, conception to natural death, poverty, and disability. It was a pro-all-life sermon and these are rare finds these days. I wanted to weep.

One of my first memories is being hoisted onto my father's shoulders, a blue and white sign in my child hands, marching back and forth in the cold outside the local hospital. I remember the way my hot breath made my father's hair wet and then bitterly cold, ice almost, and so I kept doing it: a childish game for a child protesting the death of other children. I knew not what I did.

I wonder, sometimes, if we know not what we do, most of us. All of us. Republicans so intricately concerned with the intricacies of conception, hearts aflutter and personhood, and Democrats so consumed with poverty and quality of life and people. Even the act of writing those words I have grouped all of us into one or the other—even if it isn't the whole truth—because that's what we do. We polarize. We assume. We gotcha.

I mourned the rise of Donald Trump as our president and I mourned the march of women the following day. We know not what we do. I mourn the talking heads and wonder, "Who are these people, really? What saddens them and delights them and what do they fear and why are they yelling?" I mourn the signs and hats and chants and shirts, which I had hoped (really hoped) would say more about equal pay and poverty and violence against all women and immigration, but mostly were about anatomy, birth control, abortion, and death. I wonder what, exactly, any of us are for?

There is no easy way through all of this, but I hope and know there are more of me out there. This election split us, severed us really, and I am grateful for this at least. I have not found a home in Republican politics or Democrat principles since I began searching for one years ago. One seemed to only care about the life of the baby and one only about the life of the mother, and neither, really, about the life of the father at all. If we are humans and not automatons, I hope none of us can find a home in there either.

I think of Peter's letter to the "elect exiles of the dispersion," and I hope I might find myself in there this week, this polarizing, dehumanizing, relegating, shaming week. His, but exiled. His, but not at home. His, but apart from the whole. His, but dispersed. But still his.

I say to Nate of all the years to live in D.C. and have the opportunity to attend so many beautiful expressions of our government, politics, and rights, I am saddened that this is our year. I feel less like a proud American than I ever have. But there, nestled amidst the sadness in my broken heart, there is a quiet and vibrant confidence: I cannot find a home in all of this, any of it, but I have a home in Him and what life in Him stands for: all of life in Him for all of life on earth.

. . .

If you feel like an elect exile this year too, if you feel lonely there, I want to comfort you with words assuring you that you are not alone, but I don't think it will help you. The truth is we are alone in this in some ways. He is with us, and we are with one another, but when you feel that nagging shame of not being able to joy in the new president of our country or march with women wearing "pussy-hats," when you feel in the messy middle of being not either, here is the truth: you are not alone and that uncomfortable place in which you stand is a good one. It will remind you your home is in Heaven with a King who will never be elected out of his office or throne and who cares, more deeply, more intricately, about all the mothers and fathers and babies than we ever could. So keep caring. Keep standing in the messy middle being pro-all-life remembering: Jesus once bled an agonizing, messy death so that all might live.

When We are Fallow and Infertile

Screen Shot 2016-12-23 at 10.28.47 AM 'Tis the season for all the top ten lists. I thought of doing one but decided against, for various reasons. Writing, for me, has taken a different turn in this season and I've had to mourn the loss with tears, stalwart determination, and sometimes crippled fingers and thoughts. Last week I confessed in tears to Nate that one of the hardest parts of life this year has been how quickly the world turns and how my work has faded from sight, and how forgotten I've felt as time and people progress and we feel stuck. It was a good talk, a humbling one and a needed confession of my own sin. This week I've just tried to remember, remember, remember all that God has done in this fallow season.

Fallow is an agricultural term meaning, simply, to let a field alone for a period of time in order to restore its fertility. As I look over 2016, and the lingering parts of 2015, it's very easy for me to see all the death and none of the fertility. What have we borne? Nothing, even if you look closely, which I have been trying to do. And there is something inside of me—and probably inside of you—that wants to rush to cover over that sad statement with so many reminders of "All The Good Things!" But, just as those fields need times of fallow, of non-productiveness, of not bearing, and seeming to all the world and the field too, of having lost their ability to bear, God is still doing something in that neglected dirt. The platitudes we want to console or coddle with actually make what isn't happening less beautiful. If I look closely enough I can see God's beautiful sovereign hand in all of the seeming nothing. This may not make sense to you, it barely does to me in my cognitive moments, but in my poetic moments, those mysterious ah-has creep into my heart unawares and surprise me with comfort, joy, hope, and peace.

I take great comfort right now in not being able to know the mind of God, even if I try. For all my attempts to garner an explanation for what He has done and is doing with our lives, or to wrangle a glimpse of next year, or bribe my way into what I want or less of what I don't want, I'm humbled that the only show of hands is His promise of Love. He gives the presence of Jesus, as a baby, in a humble birth, and permission to pray "Our Father" even when He is off in Heaven and we are still here on dirt-encrusted earth, and the gift of His Spirit, comforting, helping, teaching, always quietly and sometimes imperceptibly.

God is doing something in the fallow field, so small, so magnificent, so intricate, and so miraculous, that it would astound me to know the details and so, instead, it just seems to me a dark, hardened, untended, infertile, and frozen acre of dirt. Planting will come, and someday, again, fruit, and then harvesting, but fallowing is just as important for the process as seed sowing and sun shining, it simply isn't as pretty in the meantime.

Thank you, Father, for leaving us fallow sometimes, but never leaving us, ever, any of the time.