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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Cue 2019

If you need to be reminded of all the ways in which time keeps turning and you are loved and called by name, maybe read the whole daily office, today.

I was struck anew by what must have seemed like a “tag” at the end of the traditional Hebrew blessing from Numbers, which hangs prominently in my home, which I pray over my children, and which I often use as the benediction when I preach.  Seems I never get to verse 27, which is weird, because naming is important enough to me that you would think this would have captured my attention at some point:

Numbers 6:24-27 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.  So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (NRSV). 

I have been caught in what might be a perpetual identity crisis for so long I’m not even certain when it began.  To be sure, there is some imposter syndrome going on, as my life has taken some crazy twists and turns in recent years, and I often find myself in places and wonder how the heck I got there (figuratively, not literally… there’s GPS for that).  Maybe I am averse to the whole “I may not know who I am, but I know whose I am,” cliché.  I mean, it’s a cliché, so I probably am averse to it.  But what I mean is, maybe this is why I’ve missed the sliver of truth that lies therein (that’s the problem with clichés, after all…  there is some reason people keep using them, but it can be painstaking work to ferret it out).  Being named by God, though… that’s not cliché.  And being God’s people?  We should take that seriously.

So, my MO for Flip Flops, Glitter, and Theology has been to not write about my family too often.  I have a super (not) secret Mommy blog for that, so this space can be reserved for theological inquiry and discourse.  But I just have to tell you, the coming of this new year is hitting me hard, because it’s the first year I will graduate kids from high school, and if there is one thing I have never questioned, even in the midst of the complete deconstruction and reconstruction of who I am (multiple times over), it’s my role as their mom.  Many things have changed, but they are what I always wanted.  I think I’m going to avoid a full-fledged mid-life crisis (although some people would argue I’m already having one), because I’ll still have three non-adult humans at home when #1 and #2 take off, and I anticipate I will be far too exhausted for a crisis by the time #5 grows up.  But still, I do suck at transitions and this one that’s looming over me feels ominous.  

Cue Mary: 

Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (NRSV).

Clearly, I’ve been thinking a lot about all these words (or as the NIV puts it all these things) that were first foreshadowing and then began to take on flesh as my children have grown.  Sometimes the things we dream turn out exactly the way we imagined and sometimes they don’t.  Overall, though, I have been blessed with a lot of wonderful moments to treasure and ponder, and there is a part of me that looks forward to the future, even though letting go can be rough, because I see every day, in the present, just how incredible these people are and how blessed the world is to have them in it.  Which brings me in a roundabout way to Ecclesiastes… the time for everything… but also the struggle to understand time as it is (cue: Landslide, Dixie Chicks version):

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.  What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (NRSV).

A sense of past and future in our minds, yet an impossible quest to discern how it all fits together, leads to the only reasonable conclusion… be happy while you live in the moment you have right now.  If I am anything, I’m a thinker and a planner, so this is a very difficult direction for me to follow.  I take snapshots of moments, precisely because I do not want to lose them and then lose moments, taking snapshots.  Vicious cycle…

But if we wonder what it is that we should actually occupy ourselves with in the ordinary flow of our lives, this is it:  

Matthew 25:34b-40 (NRSV) “‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’” (NRSV). 

If we belong to God… if God’s name is written on our hearts… then these are the words… these are the things to treasure.  And, you know what?  Sometimes we really screw it up.  In fact, I think we might screw it up more often than we don’t (at least it seems so from my own personal experience, but yours might be different).  Maybe that’s part of why we’re so obsessed with new beginnings, with chances to start over.  Maybe it’s why we reinvent ourselves.  Maybe it’s even why we sometimes resort to throwing stuff up against the wall and hoping it might stick strong enough and long enough to mark our identities as something worthwhile.     

Undoubtedly, in all of it, God is near, and God seems to understand something of the need for creative beginnings and ends: 

Revelation 21:3a-6a “’See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’  And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done!’” (NRSV). 

For the past several years, my mantra (with a hashtag, of course, because it is the age of social media) has centered around words and concepts like #LessFear and #Fearless.  It has been exhausting; there have been many moments when I have wondered whether or not I am broken beyond repair.  Most recently, I have even felt as if my very spirit might be crushed (see: PhD work has been brutal to my humanity and my current GPA makes me cry on and off… nobody panic or consider not hiring me, though… it’s still very acceptable, just impossible for this perfectionist to square).  This year, I’m aiming for #Resilience.  May we all stand up and bounce back (cue: weebles… now those things make for good childhood stories).

Happy New Year!


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