Some Basic Affirmations (Again)
I must decrease. – St. John the Baptizer
This has been a week for thinking about family. Not just that one pictured to the left, but the one below, too:
It has also been a week to think about how terrible so much of what we take for granted – the sky, clouds, wind, rain – can become when we least expect it.
It has been a week to think about what, if anything, any of this means. Our spouses and children, our parents, siblings, extended family, the world around us – what, precisely, do they mean to us and for us? As always, I would submit that, as far as my family is concerned, I am surprised every day at my wife and children, how they thrive, are happy, healthy, fun, funny, beautiful from the inside out, and really if I’m being honest, not a whit of it has anything to do with me. Oh, I know the girls – young ladies, anymore – have half their DNA from me, but I can’t name a thing I’ve done since that has helped make them the vibrant, smart, funny, fun-to-be-around people they are. And Lisa? It is a constant source of amazement to me that she hasn’t sought greener fields. Their presence in my life is a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute affirmation of the reality of grace in my life and in the world. They shine, sometimes so bright it hurts the eyes, and for that I am so grateful.
And those yahoos in the other photo? Why, if they aren’t the best role models, rivals, most cantankerous, diverse, frustrating, edifying, and marvelous group of siblings on the planet, I can’t imagine someone being even more fortunate. Being the tag-end child, I grew up partially in awe, partially in fear, partially in jealousy of each of them in his or her abilities, abilities I did not nor never could have. I struggled through a high school experience having not only the understanding that old man in the middle sat in his chair in the high school as exemplar and warning, but following not just one but all of them and their achievements. Even now, when we’re all middle aged, even the youngest grandchildren are teenagers, and that old man in the middle is older yet, I look at my sisters and my brother and I wonder how it is possible I could ever be what they’ve all ready been, done what they’ve all ready done. They continue to be role models for me, and I know I just won’t ever live up to them. And that, I suppose, is the way it should be.
As for the weather . . . I’m sitting here this Sunday morning, looking out our picture windows at the beautiful blue sky, the occasional white cloud, the lack of wind, and remembering when all those things turned from the gorgeous peacefulness to a horror that threatened so many, and was destructive to some. Deadly to one. We tend to get all romantic and dreamy and kind of stupid when we think of “nature”. The truth, however, is “nature” doesn’t care what we think. It operates according to forces we are still trying to understand and what we call “horrible” or “violent” is anthropomorphizing things that are just mindless moments when particular sets of circumstances create conditions that are certainly hazardous to human (and other) life, but certainly not in and of themselves good or bad. To think otherwise is to consider us human beings as of far more importance to this planet than we really are.
All this has served, yet again, as a reminder that, all things considered, I’m just not that important in the scheme of things. I bring no real understanding or wisdom to the world. The world itself doesn’t know I exist, and wouldn’t and couldn’t care if it did. I know I am loved – which is a source of constant surprise and wonder – but that love doesn’t always manifest itself as warm and fuzzy moments. It also results in moments of angst and frustration, of dominance and submission (and not the fun kind!), and another constant reminder: that I still have so far to go to become the person I should be, to become the spouse, the parent, the brother, that I know I could be but can’t; to hold in tension the reality of both Divine and human love and the dispassionate concern for any of us in the face of natural and human forces beyond any control.
These are good lessons to learn. Again and again and again . . . It is good to be reminded that I am the least among all those pictured above. It is good to be reminded that the world doesn’t know me. At the same time, it is good to be reminded that our God, the Living Triune God whose existence is Love, knows me and calls me by name. Not just me, however. This week, that same God reached out to the people of Rochelle and Fairdale, IL, holding them close, letting their tears wet the hands and arms that held them, and reaching out in the very real flesh and blood of so many who seek to help. If there is “meaning” to a killing tornado, it is just here: This is an opportunity for people to become the hands and feet and hearts of our God.
All the while, I sit back in wonder, grateful to be known and called by name, and believing this is more than enough for me. I’m just some guy who happened to marry the best woman; to have the best daughters; and to be the tail-end sibling of some of the most amazing people I’ve known. If any of you, Dear Reader, receive anything from this, please know it is not from me. My fondest hope is to become invisible, transparent to the One who has called me, who offers Life to all in Love and Peace. I am satisfied that obscurity and anonymity are to be my lot, as long as someone, somewhere, at some point, hears a word that satisfies their heart. I must decrease, indeed, to the point of death, because that is what we are called to. If anyone has heard or seen the Word or the Person who speaks that Word, then my work is done. Blessings to you all, and believe they are all ready there. For each of you and all of you. From our God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.