Posted by: minnow | November 27, 2015

Setting the Table

I am a highly critical person. (No joke, right!) Even though for a split second, as a child, I was a social butterfly and the most negative thing my teachers said about me was I was too chatty. (I’m serious!)  I realize, unless you knew me back then, wrapping your head around this particular thought plays tricks on your brain, but I have the report cards to prove it!  Still, the truth is I have been critical for so long I can’t quite wrap my own head around the idea.  But that’s okay, I’m not trying to defend the person I was, as if having once been her, changes me now.  I just know that she was liked.  And, being liked felt good in a way that built confidence.  As a child, I wasn’t afraid to venture out.  I trusted in the goodness of things–systems, people, my world.  I liked who I was.

When and how the happy-go-lucky she transitioned to the borderline cynical and highly critical me is still up for grabs.  Yet, I do know, while I have been critical most of my life, the cynic is a relatively new development.  Being critical has often left me on the outside looking in, at times wishing I could be more carefree, more personable, easier to engage with, and more willing to ignore the flaws I found, especially the flaws in other people’s thinking.  (It would have made parties and large family gathering much easier to deal with).  But, I learned to walk alone instead and to ignore the pangs of grief that came with being alone.  (It’s okay–no sympathy necessary.  I made the choice a long time ago, and honestly for me, the alternative is less attractive.  When I feel sorry of myself, I just remember that discernment is a synonym for criticism and I feel much better).

I’m not so okay with becoming a cynic, however.  I see cynics as replacing hope with suspicion.  That’s not who I want to be.  I admit, I no longer trust systems or people the way I once did.   As an adult, I believe I have a responsibility to impact the world around me as positively as I can.  Sometimes (I actually think most times but that’s just me), making a positive difference involves taking a long hard look at my personal flaws and determining to change.  Applied outward, it also means willingly taking a long hard look at the flaws of those systems and people groups to which I belong.  I am critical of the big C Church, the government, education, individual politicians, and other leaders because I believe until we acknowledge where we have gone wrong we are helpless to formulate better strategies.

I have a FB acquaintance whose solution to the refugee crisis is to change our focus, refuse to get bogged down in the debate of should we or shouldn’t we let more refugees in, instead support organizations like World Vision.  World Vision is in the business of helping refugees.  It just does it a little closer to their homes and a little farther away from our own.  “By all means,” I told her, “support World Vision.  But, don’t pretend we are looking at an either/or proposition.”  Finding a way to help refugees on another continent no matter how much good comes from it, doesn’t answer the moral debate in the United States. Yes, it is doing something, something helpful. BUT, SO IS RAISING AWARENESS. SO IS REFUSING TO BE SILENCED BY FEAR.

My Facebook feed was lit up yesterday (11/26) with friends and acquaintances giving thanks.  The same thing happens every year.  We are thankful for our families, for the bounty of our tables, for our health.  Post-it stamps abound with pictures of winter scenes, fall foliage, amazing cornucopias full of gourds and corn and pumpkins and leaves, all wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving or making jokes about eating too much. But then there were the other Post-its, reminders from my conservative friends to pray for the military men and women who, because of their service, couldn’t be with their families.  And, notes from my liberal friends to remember those in the LGBT community, the children who had been kick out of their homes because their families couldn’t accept them.  They, too, had no one with whom to spend Thanksgiving.

And my heart broke.

You see, most of my conservative friends would be appalled at the thought of a family kicking their child to the curb.  Most of my liberal friends are grateful for the sacrifices military men and women and their families make every year!  Most of MY FRIENDS, even given their different political slants, see the world the same way.  Our world is in pain.  It requires our help. It  needs answers.  Most of the world, like MOST OF MY FRIENDS, want what is good and just and GOOD. But we let stuff get in between our hearts and our heads.  Our goodness is detoured by fear and worry, by a sincere desire to keep our loved ones safe, and the frightening realization at the core of who we are that WE. ARE UNABLE. TO DO SO.

I am the most critical person I know.  I pick everything apart.  I play the devil’s advocate.  My son frequently likes to explain to his friends that I bleed all over my students’ papers.  And, he’s correct.  I do, because I believe in their potential.  I know they have more.  And, I want them to find it!  I want the government, the Church, the education system, my family, my friends, and myself to find our more.  I want us to live up to our potential and cast our vision farther beyond the potential we reach.  We don’t have to settle for our lowest common denominator but we do have to cast off the chains that bind us to it.  Fear and suspicion have no place at a table set for Peace, and Justice, and Compassion, and Righteousness.

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