I’ve been mostly absent from social media for the past few months. I come and go but mostly I’ve been offline trying to live into my present.
Living in the now is no small task.
We are a people of anticipation or we are a people of despair. As people who believe in Christ, hope is our native tongue but we often struggle to translate that language to the world. It’s not enough to just hope we get beamed out of here when the world goes up in flames. We’re a people of a coming Kingdom, we must live with an “on earth as it is in heaven” kind of vision. And it’s this vision that is so hard in the day to day.
The world is a mess, the world is beautiful. There is glory everywhere, everything is broken. It is a both/and sort of situation and that tension is painful and messy.
It’s easy to want to divide what seems secular and what seems sacred and pick a side. It’s natural to want to measure our worthiness in how much we do. It’s also normal to want to escape from it all.
I go on Twitter and I feel all the sharp edges of the world pushing in. There is so much injustice, so much to care about, so much going on in the world that can’t be ignored. It would be easy to weave an entire identity out of worthy causes and hashtags, to hear the ranty edges of my voice importantly banged onto the keyboard in 140 character tweets. I could spend the day tweeting on issues and raising awareness and adding my voice but I know I’m called to the work of now and I can’t do both faithfully. So I often log off, I close the lid of my laptop, I swipe up to end the apps on my phone and I do the world changing things I can, small unseen things that I hope still matter. Sometimes when I look at everyone advertising all they have done, what I do doesn’t feel like enough.
Maybe that tension is ok too? The balance before conviction derails into guilt, to rest fully and yet know we are continually called to good works, to justice, to peacemaking. This is what it means to abide.
It’s also easy to want to escape. To absently wander the aisles of Target and mindlessly put things into the cart. To numb myself with food, or Netflix, or throw pillows. Yes, that’s a thing. Throw pillows are basically a love language to me.
Sometimes when I try to escape, everything feels so frivolous. I keep seeing Instagrams of everyone’s homes all decorated and sparkly and part of me thinks it’s beautiful and part of me groans and feels like we’ve missed the point. I see artfully arranged plates with fresh apple tarts and pumpkin spice lattes swirled with creamy petals on top and it can all feel so silly and meaningless.
Sometimes I take myself more seriously than I should.
I think, what use do I have for a flower garden when there are people starving in the world? But then the blossoms bloom and I have fresh cut flowers on my table on this mornings when the world feels blunted and cold and they’re so simple and beautiful and glorious, how can I not notice them? Be thankful for them?
But then later, I find myself thinking how selfish it is of me to care about lipstick colors when people are being lynched. And then someone asks me what color I’m wearing, and it sparks a conversation and I realize being bold enough to believe myself beautiful and worthy of being seen is no small miracle.
And then I think how can I spend time decorating my living room with vintage garage sale finds when people have lost their homes? But then I find myself driving down the road on a Saturday morning in our old truck with my husbands hand resting on mine following the neon poster board signs with his and her coffees, mine milky and sweet, his bitter and black perched in the cupholders and I think this is what home is to me. This man bringing me coffee on a Saturday morning and circling all the best sales and a million miles of backroads, rummaging through rusty old tools and people’s nicknacks set out on blankets and folding tables.
This feeling of coming home with that one thing that feels like it was always meant to be yours and for such a great price because they just wanted it gone. This is grace too. Those small moments of simple wonder and peace. And I have to push down my cynical side that says this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It is not important enough to warrant my praise. That I can’t care about the things that matter and also these things do, in fact, matter.
It’s easy to want to spiritualize everything and try to live above the fray of it all. I’ve found myself struggling with wanting to pull away from things because it all seems so fluffy and unimportant.
But God doesn’t do it that way. He never has. Every petal that blooms spells out the majesty of God. Every flavor that melts on the tongue, every eye catching moment of splendor that is the perfect red lipstick is no accident. Every beautiful thing our vision catches and the fact that we notice them at all has everything to do with who He is as a creator.
I am reminded of this as I read through the gospel of Luke.
He came in both flesh and holiness in the most extraordinary of ways. The wisemen brought extravagant and beautiful gifts and offered them as worship. The shepherds came stunned at His glory. And God used both to usher in the Good news of Jesus’s birth and foretell his majesty.
Jesus always taught that He- himself- was present not only with the poor but also present in the poor. This is our language of hope for the world.
In Matthew 25 Jesus taught us that when we fail to see Him in the poverty and oppression of others, when we ignore their plight, we fail to grasp our Master. We fail to understand the heart of our savior. He made no qualifications of those who deserved grace and mercy. He didn’t mention their choices, their gender, their religion, their immigration status, their political affiliations, or the color of their skin.
That restlessness I feel? It’s living in the tension of abundance knowing that God is among us. He says to us, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me … Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25: 42ff)
I have known poverty and I have known abundance. Just to live here in this present time in this present place affords me huge privilege.
It made me realize that to meet Jesus in that place of poverty, I would have to have food, I would have to have drink , a home to open, clothes to spread across another’s shoulders, freedom to visit the prison. I am blessed with these things in abundance for the very purpose of meeting Jesus. He has equipped me with everything I need. He’s not calling me to ignore His blessings, He’s asking me to share them, to rest, to enjoy, to speak out, to serve, and to lament.
He’s calling me to peace in the tension, not an escape nor another thing to do but a place to abide in Him and be met with hope.