Balancing Act –
There is an area in our yard next to the road that is tricky to mow. It is a sharp incline and in order to the get the job done the mower and the rider has to be at a steep angle. When I mow this particular spot in the yard I sit halfway on the seat with my body leaning in the opposite direction of the incline. The balance has to be perfect. Too far off the seat the mower doesn’t sense enough pressure on the seat and shuts off. Don’t lean far enough and there’s a chance the mower and rider could topple over. It’s a twenty-five yard long, difficult and dangerous, balancing act.
Life is also a balancing act. We live in perilous times. All one has to do is turn on the television, log online, and get the sense our families, communities, nations, and world is one mistake from toppling over into a dangerous place and we may not recover.
The problem is balance. Sides are chosen, political parties picked, litmus tests are given, judgments made and those on the other side, even ones seeking a middle way, are labeled as; “the enemy.” I don’t know if we are going to make it back from the edge of disaster but I do know it takes more strength to listen than to ignore, to understand than to shout down, to accept than to reject, to see others as us than ‘less than,’ to find balance than to demand conformity.
Exactly As It Is –
A few moments ago I sat outside on the edge of the porch and watched my Siberian Husky sniffing the ground. We have three families of rabbits, including little ones, and he has been stopping and smelling the area where they have been. The sun is out today. Its been hidden most of the week. There’s a nice breeze, blue skies with thick white clouds, the grass is an emerald-green. An almost perfect day. As I sat there I felt a splash of water on my leg. I looked to see where it came from and noticed a puddle and drops of water falling off the roof. For an instant, the moment was perfect until I noticed it. I sighed, not because of the splash but because my focus became what bugged me, not on everything else.
Wisdom teaches us to accept each moment exactly as it is; what we judge good and not so good, positive and negative, perfect and less than. The truth is; my moment on the porch was perfect with the drops of water, the splash, and the puddle. It was perfect because it’s what it was and my idea of perfection was what got in my way.
Life is a series of imperfect moments because we decide they would be better; “if…” Acceptance is one of the hardest yet most crucial lessons we must learn if we’re ever to know awareness and contentment.
Weeds are those things in our yard we try to get rid of, permanently. Last weekend my wife sprayed a lot of weeds in our yard which were growing out of control. Most people don’t like weeds because we’ve determined they don’t have any value. They’re unwanted, unloved and disposable.
I came across the quote in the picture (included) by Ralph Waldo Emerson and it gave me pause. It didn’t change my view of weeds but it did make me think of the men I work with on a daily basis. Most of these men are seen as unwanted, unloved and disposable. Those who are incarcerated speak of being lonely not receiving any visits from family and friends. There are many whose wives, girlfriends, and kids have begun to discover life without them in it.
I was speaking with another man this week who has a bias toward a particular group of people. When I inquired if he knew any of them intimately, had sat with them, talked with them, ate with them, gotten to know them, he admitted there wasn’t many. It’s easier to group them together and declare they have no value.
Our world is full of “weeds,” people who are looked at and disregarded for many reasons. Whether it’s their religion, skin color, accent, dress, tattoos, sexual preference, they are seen as less than and lacking virtues such as goodness, grace, and kindness.
No one is a weed. To think and act as if one person or group isn’t worthy reduces the value of us all.
This morning, Beth and I celebrated Easter Sunday with our brothers and sisters at a small Lutheran church. I have enjoyed being a part of this intimate faith community several times over the last eighteen months. However, this is Easter Sunday and there were many more people than on an average Sunday. We found our seat and soon there were two women who occupied the wooden pew (another reason I like the church) in front of us. It didn’t take me long to notice them noticing others who walked in and found a space to sit with their families. A mom, whose hair was the color of a red came in and the two women looked at her and then each other. Another family with two rambunctious kids sat down and the two women again caught each other’s eye. Throughout the service they would look at each other and smile a slight grin. I wondered what they were thinking and if their glances signaled judgement, curiosity, or something entirely different.
At the end of the service everyone was invited to the front and receive the communion elements of bread (a symbol of Christ’s body) and wine (a symbol of Christ’s blood). We were sitting in the back and able to watch as others partook of the Eucharist. Everyone kneeled in front of the cross. All were equal. Moms with red hair, kids who had a hard time sitting for long periods of time, elderly and young, those in their new Easter outfits, those wearing shorts and sweat pants and two women. None were greater or less but all in a position of humility at the feet of the One Master.
In our Incarcerated Fathers’ classes last week I was asked by the dads several times how many days I’d be taking off over the holiday season? It was their way of inquiring if the groups would still be meeting, would I be missing over the next two weeks, would they be forgotten? “I’ll be here.” was always my reply. “Seven weeks ago I gave you a commitment that I’d be with you for the next twelve and I can’t ask you to be faithful if I’m not.”
Too often, we use the Christmas season as a way of escape. We hibernate from the world outside and enjoy the world of our family, friends and those we love and prefer. While there is no harm in being with those we cherish we must also remember the ones who are most likely to be forgotten, overlooked, ignored.
Christmas can be a time of renewed commitment to those who are; “less than,” in honor of the One who is; “more than.” Perhaps this is the real reason for the season.