"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
So, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna liven up the cold, stand-offish intellectualism of our group? We'll smile and giggle and tickle Michelle and laugh at Doug and hit Noah and tease Rob and hug Stratton and abuse Mike until we accentuate everyone's flaws and force them to realize that we see through their personas and love them anyway and that they'll just have to get over the terrible shock of being loved and being happy. :) Then we'll be a fuzzy warm cuddly community and we can start reaching out b/c we won't have to focus on our own problems anymore.
Yes, I know, it's a fairly overly simplistic and idealistic and possibly even blind solution, but I do truly believe that all anyone wants is to be told that he/she is failing miserably at "being" what he/she wants to be (that is "being" is present tense and "wants to be" is future. The two cannot, logically, coexist unless you are God, which we are not.) Anyway, that we all see what he/she is now, which is nothing extraordinary or underordinary. . . that all he/she wants is to be loved and adored and to have people seriously interested in his/her well-being is what makes them so lovable. . . that he/she craves and fears being so vulnerable and TRUTHFUL is what we love most about them. I know that personally if everyone saw me as a confused mass of contradictions and idiosyncrasies with nothing brilliant or even interesting about it and loved me simply for existing and wanting to be loved, I would not know what to do with myself and would most likely respond by being totally secure. And in that security I would become sincere and would lavish love on everyone b/c I really am interested in everyone else and want to love them and be part of their lives.
So. . . what's my conclusion? That we are fallen. We are not God. That we will never be anywhere close to perfect. Some of us are deformed, some are not so quick, some of us are weak, some of us are downright weird. We all are constantly sinning and, even worse we are all FAILING in every thing we do b/c we are striving for that perfect image of self. So, let's just admit it: we are not brilliant, we may not get that job or make that audition, we may not be as attractive as we would like to be, we may fear that there is something wrong with us, we may have no idea of who we are or exactly what we believe, we may fear that life is meaningless and that if we clear away all the nonsense around us we'll find that we are nothing at all. . . but So What?!!!! That's what we are! If we lay ourselves bare, if we admit that our goodness and badness are integral, inseparable parts of our beings and that we are STILL, after ALL OF THAT, LOVEABLE, than we can stop hiding. we can begin to love. And it is in doing that that we encounter God. And we are no longer nothing. We still have faults which we can work on without concealing, but we realize that we are nothing without God, and that that is something to be celebrated and not feared.
It was five years ago tonight that Julia McNeely died. Five years ago on a rainy stretch of road near Louise, Mississippi.
This strange twist my life has taken -- to places like Ghana and Sudan and being executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation -- in a weird way it all goes back to Julia. To the coffee we had at Bread Co. when she showed me her pictures of Kenya. To her inviting Blair Henneke into ECM to share all the work she was doing in Tanzania with TEAM.
I'm proud of all my students. I love them. They have made me the person and priest I am today. I have learned so much from them. The words above are from an email Julia sent me late one Sunday night after a particularly frustrating Bible study group. She was only a freshman, and I remember thinking, "Wow. This kid's really got it." I was so impressed, I forwarded it to the House of Bishops and Deputies list of the Episcopal Church ... hoping some of her wisdom would penetrate that dense forest! Mostly, though, I was grateful she had penetrated mine.
I think about Julia all the time. I think about her every time I break the bread at the altar. I think about her every time I see pictures of crowds of children following people in places like Nairobi (or when I'm the one those crowds are chasing). Mostly, I think of her when I'm dashing through airports on my way to my next destination to talk about the Millennium Development Goals, knowing that somewhere she's watching me and smiling that wispy smile that means she thinks it's really cool and quite amusing what I'm spending my life doing.
And I still have the dream. Not as often, but I still have it. That we're all together. Everyone. Sarah, Amber, Cori, Noah, Stratton, Rob, Laurie, Ryan, Johnny, Jen, Steve ... and David ... and on and on. And then Julia walks in. And everyone just surrounds her. And we're together. And what was broken is whole. And I just stand back ... and watch.
But until then, I'll just try not to forget what Julia taught me. If we lay ourselves bare, if we admit that our goodness and badness are integral, inseparable parts of our beings and that we are STILL, after ALL OF THAT, LOVEABLE, than we can stop hiding. we can begin to love. And it is in doing that that we encounter God. And we are no longer nothing. We still have faults which we can work on without concealing, but we realize that we are nothing without God, and that that is something to be celebrated and not feared.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."