Monday, October 24, 2016

Macular Regeneration

I had a conversation with a dear friend today. I love her. A lot.
But she's a bit of a conspiracy theorist. More than a bit, actually...
"They" are drugging our water, so that men will be more effeminate and they won't want to have children.
"They" are teaching our children how to masturbate and are making our children touch each other's genitals in school.
"They" are experimenting on pregnant mothers to see if "they" can create mutated children.
She also said that she lives in terror of all that "they" are doing and all that is yet to come.
When I said that I didn't believe what she was saying, she said that she understood that there were people who didn't want to see the truth, people who want to remain blind to what's really happening out there. But she knew what she knew, and nothing I could say would change her mind.

Funny that she should mention blindness and not wanting to see.
I've been thinking a lot about eyesight lately. About blindness.
And macular regeneration.

I have blind spots. I have had them all life long.
My children are brilliant. They are excellent athletes.
My house is fantastic. Spacious and well built.
My church is made up of loving, kind, welcoming, generous people who love God and all God's people.
Except... my kids are also deeply flawed and would rather not have to work too hard if at all possible.
Except... my house has chipped paint and stained carpets and leaks and cracks and occasionally critters come in through those cracks. Yuck!
Except... my church and my seminary and my neighborhood and my family and my country are all made up of self-centered, self-involved, selfish people. By no means do I believe that I an free from any of those characteristics.

Macular degeneration is a disease where the macula, the middle section of the retina, the part that allows us to see what is right in front of us, is damaged. I've heard it said often - "She can't see what's right in front of her." I've experienced it often - I will be looking for my purse or my glasses or the thing I want to wear. I look high and low, between things, behind things. Then I stop and say a quick prayer - "Lord, please open my eyes so I can find it." When I open my eyes, there it is. Right in front of my face. How did I miss it? It was right there.

Macular degeneration - it's in front of me, but I can't see it.
I can't see the intentional experiments on unborn babies.
Nor can I see the classrooms where children are told to take off their clothes and touch each other.
Honestly, if that is happening, I don't want to see it. So she was right about that.

But here's what I do see.
I see brave people who are fighting with all their energy to create equitable educational opportunities for all children.
I see others who are quietly fighting to help the poor and disenfranchised to understand their rights and the power they have to control their own lives, through voting, through community organization, through entrepreneurship.
I see a friend walking with her wife through illness while together they raise several beautiful children.
I see one friend working to regain her self-confidence and her courage after the pain of divorce, while another one is trying to establish her self-confidence and courage while in the midst of a difficult marriage.
I see someone who works for the UN, helping desperate people find safety and security and hope.
I see school buses being filled with rice and beans and being shipped to Haiti to feed hungry people.
I see housing complexes being planned and built to provide places for the homeless to come in off the street.
I see a new facility here in Charlotte for people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses to find help, support, and residential care if it is needed.
I see lawyers advocating for indigent clients, for those imprisoned unjustly, and for the abandoned.
I see friends recovering from harsh kanswer treatments.
I see parents who long to be both supportive and effective advocates for their suffering children.
I see black churches and white churches seeking ways to be one church, one united, beautiful, colorful, culture-full church.
It's right here in front of my face, and I see it.

Until recently, my macula had become cloudy with doubt about what is possible between people who say they love one another but cannot get along with each other.
My macula had become cloudy with despair about the growing distance between so many needy people and those who can offer assistance and support.
My macula had become cloudy with the fear that I would not see measurable change for the better in our city, in our churches, or in our home in my lifetime.

But thanks be to God - I am experiencing what I have termed "macular regeneration."
The clouds are lifting.
Connections are being made between individuals and groups that have struggled to find their way together in the past.
Healing is happening in broken relationships.
Barriers and walls are falling - barriers that divide people of different socio-economic groups, between different neighborhoods, between different congregations, between people of different languages and cultures.

We may not agree with one another's politics or faith claims or lifestyle choices.
Agreement in every area is not necessary.
What is necessary is the ability to see one another. To listen to one another.
To welcome one another. To walk one another home.
Even if home feels like it is one thousand miles in the other direction from the one we think we should be going in. Through valleys and shadows, through sickness and health, through protests and peace talks, through it all, we walk together. (please forgive the shameless plug for a group of awesome people I have the honor to call my friends) We have to walk together. If we don't walk together, all of us, there truly is no hope for any of us.

I don't like to think of myself as a conspiracy theorist.
Some of the connections I have heard people make are bizarre, truly bizarre.
I admit that I don't watch the news enough to say for sure whether some of the connections my friend tried to make earlier today are true.
I admit that there are some truths about our world that I don't want to see.
I am guilty of wanting to keep my head firmly buried in the sand on a lot of issues, some of them serious.
But one thing I refuse to believe or accept is the notion that our problems are too big to solve, that our divisions are too broad to bridge, and that our fears are too deep-seated to be uprooted. I have seen too much healing, too much forgiveness, too much hard work by too many people to give up or give in.

I don't know about you, but I'm gonna keep looking for and working towards macular regeneration.
In my immediate family, my extended family, my church family, my city, and beyond.
Quite frankly, I don't think I have any choice.
Because the alternative is despair.
The alternative is fear.
The alternative is blindness.
None of which are alternatives that I am willing to live with or in.

Macular regeneration.
Do you see what I mean?

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