My personal walk with Christ is very ungraceful.
I am constantly stumbling and tripping over obstacles and grievances most often of my own making. Daily, I am held back by vanity and fear and withholding of love and grace in ways that wound and misrepresent my God–breaking my own heart at the realization of those weaknesses. And yet, I am overwhelmed by His grace and the multitude of ways he extends his love to me–despite myself.
One of the biggest extensions of his love is that I get to start my week off helping Jeanne Winkler, a woman I look up to for many reasons, teaching children’s church. No matter what my mood going into the day, the little faces and earnest questions of the First Baptist kids always brightens my mindset. It’s rarely quiet and there is little time to sit, let alone reflect, but at least once every Sunday morning, I look over at them–wild, loud and filled with joy–and think how little everything else matters. That all the grandiosities and trivial wants and pettinesses of my ego mean so little in comparison to those moments, and if God never blessed me with anything outside of the gift to sit in a room with his children and teach them about Jesus it would be more than enough. Though I suspect that they teach me more than I could ever teach them.
As we head into year three of a global pandemic still as fractured and unorganized as we were at the onset of it reaching the United States in early 2020 and more polarized and hate-filled than ever before in our history, I can’t help but think of a giggle-inducing conversation I had with my youngest son, Archer, while tucking him in for bed one night, last April.
‘A: "Mom, did you know that Jesus died so that we can be in heaven with him?"
M: "Yes, he loves us all so much that he wants us to be with him always."
A: "And then he got chopped up into little pieces."
A: "Which piece do you think is in you?"
M: "umm... what?"
A: "Part of God is in everyone. What piece do you think is in you?"
A: "I think I have a foot inside me, because I am really fast. You should think about what piece is in you."
A: "Good night, Mom."
I did think about it. I have thought about that conversation often over the last year. I thought about the humor of a child trying to understand the concept of the Holy Spirit. I thought about the simplistic understanding that God purposefully gifted us different parts of his own being. I thought about the intentionality of creating people to be different, to think differently, to see and understand differently. I contemplated the rationale behind putting people with different life experiences and viewpoints into communion to live and grow together both within the church and in the community as a whole. I thought about how differently we would walk in this world if we really believed that we are meant to be different. How differently would we speak to each other? How differently would we listen to each other? How differently would we show up for each other? How differently would the last two years have gone if we regarded our differences in understanding, in knowledge, in perspective as a strength?
Almost a year later, I still don’t know “what pieces are in me” anymore than I comprehend the depth of “what pieces” of himself God purposefully placed in the people around me, but I do know that we are supposed to be different–that our strength lies in our diversity. There is no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, and even if there were, we now all know that humanity is not exempt from threats outside of man’s own making.
As we move into the new year, I hope that we will set down our old animosities and egocentric needs to “be right” and greet whatever 2022 brings as little children–joy-filled and optimistic, readily willing to love and help the people around us, letting go of the idea that our differences segregate us and regarding each other first as friends, with the primal understanding that our survival depends on each other.
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