The older I get, the less I feel at home in any institution, group, community, or place. It's not that I want to be defined by what I'm not. It's just that my eyes are crusted with the dirt of living, dim with suffering, blind to any inherent goodness in politics, denominations, ideals, or opinions. As my sight grows dim, though, and I see less, I also see more.
I think this is how it is for most of us. Either this, or we grow stodgy and arrogant, planted deep in the soil of whatever ideology we feel responsible for making (or breaking). We become old dogs who can't learn new tricks or old preachers who choke out passively worded apologies to protect our institution instead of the women within it. So, the alternative is to let our eyesight instead grow dim to this world and her various institutional pillars. Which is where I find myself more often than not these days.
I mourn this shift in some ways and invite it in others. I wish there was some thing, some place, in which I could plant a flag and claim mine from now until I die. I mourn the disenchantment with particular theologies and practices, groups and networks. Sin does that and there's no way around it. As long as we are here on this breaking earth, as long as the kingdom is not fully established, as long as eternity is only written on our hearts and not the place in which we dwell, we will find ourselves saddened by the state of things.
Oh, there is hope in the midst of it all too. Don't miss that. I'm what they call a hopeless romantic or an idealist or an optimist. I can't help but be delighted by trees and sunlight and the buds on my dahlias out back or the poetry my husband read aloud to us on Sabbath. I can't help but be enamored by oceans and mountains and to feel small before them. That smallness, though, is what makes the true optimism grow—and with it, the enchantment of here diminish.
A couple of years ago I lost my political affiliation and nearly in the same breath, though by a different cause, began to feel less at home in my denominational affiliation. Since then the losses have only mounted. I ask my husband a month ago: is this what a mid-life crisis feels like? This monumental sense of loss of home, of being, of place? Is this why there are boob-jobs and Maseratis and affairs and everything bigger and seemingly better? Because somewhere along the way we lose our place and scamper to fill it as quickly as possible?
My theology won't let me fill it though. And, if I'm honest with myself, my place in theology was errant if it could be lost in the first place. This isn't a mid-life crisis as much as it is a waking up. Waking up with sleep in our eyes still, yes, the Sand Man my grandfather called it as he took his two strong Scottish thumbs and rubbed it out, but waking up still. The thing is now we know our eyesight is dim, before we thought we saw it all so clearly. This is the beauty of youthfulness, I suppose.
The closer eternity gets for me, the more I feel myself drawn to the earth. I know I said earlier I feel less at home there, but the fact is I feel the gravitational pull toward it, though less the ideal form of it and more its real form. I want to be more acquainted with dirt and seeds and the grittiness of sin and the blindness of people who don't even know eternity is a thing. I say to Nate I am too comfortable here, by the big box stores, in our house in the suburbs, where I can't meet a neighbor who's not a Christian (serious ones, evidenced by the mutual invitations to one another's churches). I need friction, tension, strong Scottish thumbs against my crusty eyes.
Our garden needs to be weeded before we leave for ten days. Our housemates will care for its watering and perhaps pick its first fruits, but the weeding is all my job. I will move the plants aside, bend deep to the soil, and pull errant roots from it. My mother-in-law says a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. I know there's an allegory there somewhere but the dirt is calling and I must go.
I need the dirt to remind me this earth is my home, just not yet.