Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are you the only one who didn't know?

I am not much of a music person. Unless you count the old hymns of the Baptist church, sung in four-part harmony.
I am not much of a movie person. Unless you count the ones with Meryl Streep that involve her character being unfaithful to her husband.
I am not much of a Scandal or Walking Dead or How to Get Away with Murder or Downton Abbey person either. But Law and Order, Tiny House Nation, and What Not to Wear - those I know about.
I am not much of a news junkie. Unless you count Jon Stewart, The Nightly Show, and whatever stories I catch on NPR on my way to and from church and lunch dates and visits to the chiropractor.

Because I am not much of a music person or a movie person or a news junkie or a follower of many of the most popular television series, I often find myself answering some version of this question:
"Are you the only one who...?"

Are you the only one who doesn't know what's happening on Scandal or Storage Wars or on any of Tyler Perry's seventeen primetime shows or with the zombie apocalypse?
Are you the only one who isn't on top of what is going on in Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan, Ukraine, England, Italy, Spain, or right here in your own home country?
Are you the only one who didn't watch the Oscars or the pre-Oscar shows or the post-Oscar shows?
Are you the only one who hasn't seen or read any of the Harry Potter books and movies?
Are you the only one who isn't well versed in Presbyterian/Baptist/Catholic/Buddhist/Hindu/Jewish/ Muslim/Lutheran/Taoist/yogic/tantric philosophies, beliefs, practices, sacred texts, prophets, leaders, and all the lingo that goes along with each of the above?
Are you the only one who hasn't marched in a Moral Monday event?
Are you the only one who doesn't know how to make a standing pot roast or fry chicken or make a pound cake from scratch or poach an egg or chop an onion properly or how to make vegan, gluten-free dishes that taste, smell, look, and have the exact same texture as their original version?
Are you the only one who hasn't committed all the relevant and reliable statistics about race, poverty, injustice, incarceration, police brutality, prejudice, and inequality to memory?
Are you the only one who isn't saving every extra dollar for your retirement?
Are you the only one who doesn't know the name and capital of every country in Africa, Asia, South America or Europe?
Are you the only one who doesn't understand how computers/cell phones/television sets/ automobiles/electricity/the sewer system/the internet works?

No, I'm sure I'm not the only one, but as I scroll down my facebook timeline,
as I listen in on conversations at Starbucks or in the supermarket checkout line,
as I engage in virtual and actual interaction with friends,
as I read blog posts and glance at the covers of books and magazines at Barnes and Noble,
sometimes it feels like I am the only one who doesn't know everything about everything.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible comes from Luke 24, the last chapter of the third gospel. Part of that chapter describes a conversation between Jesus and two of his followers on the day he rose from the dead. This is how one version of the Bible puts it -

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?" He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things of Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

So many responses and questions have bubbled up in me over the many years of reading and pondering that story.

Like - why did those men not recognize Jesus? Some say it's because they clearly did not expect to see their friend risen from the dead. I think it's partly due to them not ever looking up at him - they were sad and dejected and probably had their eyes down rather than up.

Like - the fact that Jesus asked them such an important question - what are you discussing? What are you talking about? I like that Jesus cared what they were talking about. I love that, even though Jesus had demonstrated many times in the stories written about him that he was capable of reading people's minds and thoughts, he still asked the question and then gave them time and space to answer it. He wanted them and he wants us to tell him what's on our minds and hearts. There must be some power in speaking these things aloud - or else why would he ask?

But what has caught my attention today is their question for Jesus - Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn't know the things that have taken place there in these days?

I hear myself asking God that same question on a daily basis.
Lord, are you the only one who doesn't know that those girls are still in the hands of that terrorist group in Nigeria?
Are you the only one who isn't upset about the gun violence that plagues our nation?
Are you the only one who doesn't see the suffering of the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the dying, the bankrupt, and the lonely?
Are you the only one who doesn't want kanswer and AIDS and diabetes and lupus and fibromyalgia and measles and autism and leprosy and malaria and dengue fever and hepatitis and depression and borderline personality disorder and liver disease and dementia and ALS and chronic migraines to end?
Are you the only one who refuses to step in and do something about all of that and everything else that ails our planet and its inhabitants?

I follow those questions with my personal statements of misplaced and displaced hopes.

I had hoped that you would be the one to end injustice in my lifetime.
I had hoped that you would be the one to redeem the lost.
I had hoped that you would be the one to protect the children from predators and abusers.
I had hoped that you would be the one to make it all stop, whatever it is.
I had hoped that you would be the one to fix what is broken, to heal what is wounded, and to restore all that has been lost.

I answer Jesus' question in my journal on a daily basis: this is what I'm discussing on my life's journey. This is what I had hoped. This is what I'm thinking about and praying about and hoping for. These are the ways in which my heart is broken. These are the people I know who need to be touched and healed, rescued and reconciled. This is what matters to me today, what I'm talking to my friends about.

I also ask myself the same questions that I have been asked and the ones I have asked of God:
Am I the only one who doesn't care, isn't involved, doesn't weep,
and isn't doing something about what's happening in the world?
Am I losing myself in anger and frustration and despair and fear?
Or am I working at being the answer to my own prayers and the prayers of people who suffer?
Or am I holding on to hope and gratitude and joy and light and life and faith in the face of all that is bleak and dark and frightening and broken and desperate and dying all around me?

Am I the only one who remembers and then forgets and then remembers and then forgets the miracles, the blessings, the outpourings of love, the assistance, the deep sense of community, the random acts of kindness, and the intentional ones too that have rained down into my life, into the lives of people I know and love, and into so many people's lives all over the world - even in the most dismal and daunting and dangerous places and moments in the world?
Am I the only one who prays with burial spices on hand, often expecting to find a dead and powerless cult leader rather than a living, all powerful, ever present Redeemer?
Am I the only one who has had far more encounters with the latter than the former?
Am I the only one who is profoundly grateful for God's infinite patience with my infinite impatience, for God's grace in spite of my frequent lack thereof, and for God's comforting, quiet presence in response to my sorrowful rants?

Am I the only one whose questions far outnumber my answers?

(Note on Monday, March 2, 2015 - I'm not sure what happened, but this post should have been published last week, on Wednesday, February 25. )

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