A few hours ago, I was working on a new blog post about feeling welcome and the transformations that can occur when we start to believe that we really are are always and forever welcomed by God.
I was interrupted by a nervous child telling me that there was a police officer outside.
I grabbed the baby, secured the fluffy dog, and stuck my head out the door. My face was already red with a mixture of embarrassment and self righteous anger. As evolved as I like to think I am, interactions with authority still do that to me every time.
“Hey there officer, are you writing us a ticket for that truck that’s been parked in front of our house for too long?”
“Not a ticket, a three day warning before the city tows it. Your neighbors who complained said it’s been parked here for a while in disrepair. Does it run?”
I told him that, yes, it does run...and that I accidentally threw away the key and just haven’t gotten around to having a new one made, what with the jobs and grad school and kids and animals and viruses and the massive amount of yard work and the trying to settle into a new house with 100 kids and the back to school shopping and the appointments and so on. Ok, I didn’t say all of that, but I wanted to.
The truth is, I knew the car needed to be moved. I knew it didn’t belong there but this summer has been insane and difficult and stressful we ran out of time to get things done before Kyle went back to work a couple of weeks ago. We are overwhelmed. We are out of energy, mental and otherwise. That dear old car with the giant, mysterious hole stabbed right in the tire needed to be moved and we messed up. Shame on shame on shame on shame and my natural response is always to get angry and loud and hurt somebody.
I immediately called my poor husband at work on his birthday to transfer some of my shame and anger onto him. That worked for a minute. Then I snapped at a kid asking too many questions while I was cutting up strawberries. That didn’t work at all.
Then I remembered, as I often do in times like these, a piece of a KJV Scripture I had to learn twenty-five years ago in school.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, why don’t you.
My instinct when I am hurt or embarrassed, even slightly, is to fight back. The self preservation is strong with this one. I can be meaner than most and I can do it so well that no one will be able to pin down my intent, if I so choose. I inheirited my razor sharp tongue and my penchant for a quick comeback from my dad, who I once heard call someone, “a two-legged, walking insult.” What a unique dehumanization technique! I remember laughing when he said it, in awe of his ability to flip words around like that. Turns out, I’ve got the gift/curse, too. This is nothing to be proud of, but deep down I am sometimes, anyway.
But I’ve been saying it for a while, that God is doing a new thing in me and streams in the desert and paths in the wilderness are popping up all over the place. He is making all things new, not least of all me.
So I am breathing deep and calling a locksmith and planning an apology card for my neighbors instead of plotting legal ways to continue to annoy them even though that’s the sort of thing comes so naturally to me.
Because thanks be to God who came near to us in our sin, we are not bound by nature anymore and our genetic codes and our raising don’t get to define us OR determine our responses to stressors. I’m a new creation and so are you. The old ways are dead and gone and we are raised up to walk in a whole new way, the only Jesus Way, where acceptance and approval are never earned but freely and relentlessly given. Even if your neighbors hate your loud children and your tired, old car on the street, even if they call the cops on you and embarrass you in front of the whole neighborhood, even if you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, even if you didn’t pass your summer class, if you can’t hold your marriage together anymore, if your children are wandering far from the faith, even if you are the one who can’t stop wandering, even if you can’t keep your checking account out of the red and your tithe check just bounced - I want you to hear me say, you are free, already free. Free to walk a new way, to fall down and to try again. You are free to lay hold of your new identity and find all your worth deep worth solidly in the center of the heart of Christ who came to be God and friend and brother to you. If there is any work to be done in you, it will be done by Christ alone, so don’t bother trying to get your act together before reaching to Him. That will only delay the inevitable, that all will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well. In you, in me, in our neighborhoods and in our world.
Peace to you today, my friend. Peace to my neighbors, friend and enemy alike. Peace of Christ to me, too.