Friday, November 11, 2016

be (love)d

I tightened my laces and grabbed my water bottle, shivering a little as I left the warmth of my car for the brisk, fall air that greeted me as I headed for the trail.  Freshly fallen leaves crunched under my feet as I picked up my pace and felt the cool air burn in my lungs.  Colors of burnt orange and dull browns swirled around me as the autumn breeze had it's way with the leaves yet to find their resting place on the ground beneath my feet.  This is unplugging for me.  Choosing to set down what I can't control and choosing to run toward beauty.  Letting it surround me.  Breathing it in until my head is clear and I can begin to remember why I'm here.

Like most I'd imagine, I expected to wake up to something new on Wednesday. The something new I'd anticipated had nothing to do with who would win the White House.  But instead with what would win the day once we got past the ugliness of the past few months.

The worst in him.  The worst in her.  Laid bare for all to see like skeletons cast out of a dark closet, clattering into a heap onto the nation's harsh, unforgiving, spotlit stage.  All sides stared in horror at one or the other, some at both.  But as the camera now pans out and shines it's revealing light on it showing the worst in us?  The best in us?  We all battle those two sides deep in our hearts. Like a Jekyll and Hyde there are two things at war within ourselves.  Which side will win out in front of a watching world?

Will we value hearing above being heard?

Will we require the validation of our own beliefs before we'll love the one who differs?

Will it be an aisle that continues to separate us and ultimately forever divide us?

When last did we choose to BE love?

Is this love that is flooding our city streets and painting our phone's feeds? Because it looks and sounds a lot like hate.  The one we're standing up for, do they feel loved by us?  By our need to put down one to build up another?  The one we say we're loving as we hurl obscenities in the street or pound the keys on our computer or the screens of our smartphones...have we stopped to ask if they feel loved?  When last did we look straight into the eyes of someone hurting rather than from behind our carefully constructed walls of social media that keep us blinded to what true community is...keep us immune to the true need of our brother?  Our sister?  Can we truly love one when we have hatred for another?

It matters much more what goes on outside our own front doors than what happens behind closed doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Do we doubt our own capabilities so much that we need "our man" or "our woman" at the helm in order to live our lives driven by the passions put inside us?  Can we not stand for what we believe in by reaching out to our neighbors, even when they fall on the opposite side of an issue?  Are we too blinded by our own hurt that we no longer are moved to minister to the hurt in others?  When did we last invite the hurting into our homes?  When did we last allow ourselves to be bloodied by their wounds still so fresh that they wear them for all to see?

When is the last time you let yourself BE loved?

Why do we have to agree in order to accept the hand of the one that reaches out to us?  Since when did it become more about fighting for unity rather than choosing unity?  When we fight for it, it requires that there be both winner and loser.  And we can't feel we've won until we can look at the one across from us and feel we're looking in a mirror.  But what loss has our win created? When we choose unity, we can be loved by the one across from us, not just in spite of our differences, but because of our differences.  How often would you eat a bag of m&m's if they were all orange? Skittles if they were all green?

"A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.  By chance a priest came along.  But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.  Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, 'Take care of this man.  If his bill runs higher than this, I'll pay you the next time I'm here.'

'Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?'  Jesus asked.  The man replied, 'The one who showed him mercy."  Then Jesus said, 
'Yes, now go and do the same."  
Luke 10:30-37

When is the last time we loved our neighbor like that?  Picked him up off the road where he had fallen and carefully bandaged his wounds?  Took the time to care for him personally at our own inconvenience and expense? Chose to defeat fear with a reminder of what's good rather than propagate it with a reminder of the potential worst?  What would it have benefitted the Jewish man if the Samaritan had run off after the bandits to "make them pay" or to argue with them long enough to convince them that what they had done was wrong? Still, the Jewish man would have lain bleeding to death on the street while we "loved him" from a distance.

I think it's important to point out the historical context of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans.  At the death of King Solomon, what was once a united kingdom became divided.  A simmering hatred divided a nation of brothers.  Are we content to go the same way?  Can we pass our brother by as he lays bleeding in the street because we've determined that what separates us is too great a cavern to cross? Or will we extend that hand of brotherhood, of sisterhood simply because there's a need to be met and we have the courage to show mercy?  As a country, can we love each other anyway knowing that we all ultimately want the same thing but are driven by different convictions?  Are we doomed to always assume the worst in each other rather than look for the best?  We all desire unity. We've just forgotten along the way that obtaining it comes by a choice and not by a fight.

Let's stop emulating the media's narrow version of how we should treat each other when we disagree. Let's unplug.  Put down the smartphone.  Push away from the desk.  Turn off the TV.  You guys!! People were smiling and friendly on the trail as I ran.  Neighbors greeting neighbors with sometimes just a simple smile or a nod.  And it felt GOOD.  If I went by the online/on-screen version of things, my entire perspective on the heart of my fellow countrymen and women would be irreparably shattered. Are we really so enveloped by our bubble of choice that we forget there's a whole, wide world out there full of people, right outside our door, who care very little if our map is painted red or blue but are just aching for a glimpse of real, human connection?  That is something we all have to offer, no matter the outcome of an election.  Today. 4 years from now.  8 years from now.  1776 years from now.

Let's find tangible, messy ways to love our neighbor.  Let's get outside our respective bubbles and live as if we really believed what we say we do.  Be love.  And let yourself be loved.