Snow days are like breath marks scattered throughout the otherwise hectic and frantic pace of life, letting us know it is OK (and necessary!) to breathe. In an ideal world, we would not need to fight against snow days or find a way to get our work done in the midst of them. We could receive snow days as gifts that help us reset, start anew, and clear off an evening or even a whole day to spend in ways that give us life.
Neither a policy statement nor a sign can be the end of our discussion or action on racial justice. The Holy Spirit is leading us into difficult but important conversations around racial discrimination and justice. This is happening at the same time of a major demographic shift in America, where the white majority is becoming a minority. At the recent RCA General Synod, General Secretary Eddie Aleman said, “The future of the RCA is multi-ethnic…I love to say this is a beautiful thing.” There will be inevitable backlash as new realities emerge and those used to power adjust to those new realities. I wish my final year had been less bumpy, but I am proud of the leaders and members of Third who, in the midst of a pandemic, took a stand for racial justice.
Texas’s new law is particularly cruel. Abortion is banned after six weeks, so early that some women won’t even know they’re pregnant. Private citizens are authorized to enforce the law and sue those who help people access abortion care in any way. Sadly, it’s not a surprise that this is the tactic antiabortion activists and legislators would pursue. In many ways this cruelty is baked into the movement—a movement that’s spent decades devising ways to make abortion care inconvenient, demeaning, and dangerous for those who need it. Women seeking abortions—whom the antiabortion movement professes to care about—are hurt the most.
Mrs. Goehring—may she rest in peace–knew nothing of what that jock in the back of the class was discovering in words she’d assigned us from Portia’s courtroom speech; but that morning in sophomore English, the schoolmarm won a game she didn’t really know I was playing. The ball games are long gone, but the lines of that speech showed up on my screen and then in a haze of memory just a day or two ago.
How are we to discern the body of Christ? Like my friends in that teeming church full of different voices, different beliefs, I want to be generous, to be open to transcendent mystery, to be a co-traveler. I want to listen for those words of grace, perhaps even speak them one day.
My son, who only knows cameras to look like i-Phones, was silenced by the discovery of his grandfather’s camera. He ran his fingers over each button until his curiosity was satisfied enough to move onto another. And then he hit the button that released the back panel of the camera, the place where 35 mm film was once stretched and loaded like a canvas awaiting its artist. My sister and I smiled at his sheer delight in this mysterious contraption. And then we realized: There was film in the camera.
I have found great freedom in this gentle posture. It allows the space to get things wrong, continually learn, and recognize we always read scripture informed by our needs and cultural context. This means it is okay to grasp only part of what scripture might be saying. It is okay to get it wrong here and there. That’s why we work these things out in community.
What holds us together? If agreement is what holds us together, then every so often when something emerges that we disagree on, we will have to go through this again and again, and again, and again. If what holds us together is our agreement, then just buckle up for serial conflict because we will have to slug it out often, because there’s always a new question. There’s always a new issue emerging. Think about your history, about how deep the conflict went over Masonic orders, for example. It’s hard for us to understand the intensity of that. That was the issue of that day and we have the issues of our day. Is there a kind of unity that is deeper and more Spirit-led than the unity that forms around agreement?
As the decades go by, pioneers are forgotten. It’s important to acknowledge we stand on the shoulders of those who came before. And, it’s very encouraging, if you’re one of those pioneers, to see the progress. We’re not doing this work for ourselves, but for everyone coming after us. I remember a conversation I had with another church leader about moving ahead, even when there isn’t consensus. He said to me, “We can’t always wait until we have a convoy.” If you break new ground, there will be those who will be upset and those who will be grateful.
What is going on with this “family” we’ve been adopted into? How am I to make sense of the dissension and conflict among God’s household, God’s people, the church—the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, people of God’s covenant of grace?