(I was up late thinking. And maybe it was the coffee I had too late in the evening, but maybe it wasn't, so I got up to write, and I wrote a letter to my pastor. And I edited it very slightly and posted it here.)
A few things, that feel really related, and might even sound related in the morning:
Today I drove with my friend to _______. She had to drive up to take her mother to the dmv, so her mother could get her license back, because her mother lost her license driving drunk. She said to me, "What's sad is that she was a really good mom, up until the drinking and the mental illness started." And I believe her. Because I could see little glimpses of it in the way they interacted, in the way her recently-drinking mom told her that she was a fine young woman. In the art in her mom's garage, and in the story about going to see her dad sing a concert seventeen years ago. But all of that changed when her mom started drinking, when ___ was in the fourth grade. What a tragedy. And now she contends with a legacy of family broken-ness, and she contends with her own self-doubt and commitment issues, and she contends in a very real way with her mom. And she plans out with her sister who will drive her mom to the dmv, and who will have a stern talk with her about drinking and driving. And the whole thing is so heart-breaking. Just so heart-breaking. This, E., my same friend whose life has had more than its share of curve balls and awful in the past year, where periodic abusive text messages from her mom are just part of the fabric, the background of it all. And I asked her on the way home if she feels like there's anything else she could try, and she listed all the things they have tried, and I have to agree that it seems like there's nothing else they can try. It just makes me shake my head. It just makes me snap at my girlfriend. It just makes me sad and angry.
Except that it doesn't just make me sad and angry. Because we ride together, the whole way to ________ and back. And we leave her mom's house, and I say to her, "We're getting ice cream, right?" and she says, "Oh, yeah." And we do. And our rides, both there and back, are full of life and integrity and deep heart sharing and laughing like crazy at the joy and awful in the world. And we stop at the library on the way back, and I pull five good comic books off the shelf for her, because she's been in such a superhero mood lately. That makes me shake my head now. The superheroes in my life don't wear capes one can see.
And then, I ride the train to where I'm meeting Rachael after her bookclub, and I find a lovely little coffee shop to hang out in, and I just take out my little paper sketchbook and draft the rest of my constructive theology paper. It's just little sketches, but it's pretty much all there, everything I think is important enough to write about Jesus, about sin and suffering, about ecclesiology, about ministry, about eschatology. I thought I would have to take long breaks in between drafting one section and drafting the next, but it just flows and flows like crazy. And now I figure that it's probably the whole weight of the day, just pressing me and pulling me, and the Spirit moving through that, and coming out in quotes and dotted lines and question marks, like fingerprints in clay.
And also, today, I talked to my other friend and colleague Nate, who's writing a sermon. And she's having a hard time of it. And somehow, the conversation came around, and we just ended up talking about how what you learn in seminary is to have two contradictory things, two things that are utterly opposed, and that are both utterly true, and to hold them together. I think I went so far as to say that such a thing basically describes what seminary is for: to learn how to hold two contradictory things, ideas, whatever, together. I might even stand by that statement in the morning. And it feels like such a thin place, now, thinking about how we spoke to one another, me on my cellphone on the el platform, she in her apartment with her books and her tv.
And I think about my own people. And I had a frustrating interaction with someone close to me a few months ago, where he came to the city briefly, and it was just exhausting in its falseness and its emptiness. And I went back to my house, and I complained about it to two of my housemates, because they were there, and they totally just held it all. And Corrigan, my housemate, said, after all of my complaining and lamenting, he said, "Well, what's the anarchist version of 'we'll keep him in our prayers?'" And he just meant it from his heart and it makes me cry to think about it now.
And I think about the orientation to American Baptist life that I just got back from. And hearing about missional churches, churches that are built first on mission and only later on the other parts of being church, and I found myself wondering: can I do that backwards? Instead of taking totally disengaged Christians or whoever and making them engaged in the struggle, can I take people who are already ferociously, life-and-death engaged in struggles for justice and give them a place to rest and pray and eat and take heart, and people to hold them and love them and challenge them and give them a little sabbath before they burn out five years into their careers? Well?
"What's the anarchist version of 'we'll keep him in our prayers?'" I think it's probably just that.
The only reason that I think I can do this, is that when I came from a day of walking through heartbreaking tragedy and beloved community, walking in between, the theology just flowed like water out of my pen. And tonight I feel heart-broken and spirit-woken, and I'm writing this.
Oh yeah: And this: Jesus is in a house, healing and teaching, and the man who is paralyzed, he can't get in to Jesus, so his friends, the ones who are carrying him, dig through the roof. Most days I feel like that man.
love from chicago.