Wednesday, June 17, 2009

imagine meeting you here!

I have been feeling a bit scattered lately, with lots of thoughts bumping into one another inside my head. I imagine them as people at a crowded party: "Oops! Sorry, I didn't see you there." "Pardon me, just trying to make my way through...." Some step on each others' toes and others are happy to have accidentally run into each other.

Pat and I have stayed up hosting these late-night thought parties. We talk about recent events -- unexpected bumps on the road to racial reconciliation, kids we have watched grow up having children before they have even grown themselves, parents who pave the way for their children's road to deliquency, children who say they're afraid their parents don't love them (to whom I have no quick assurances), people stealing from their friends, families breaking up, and other issues some would label "dogs returning to their own vomit," as it would seem. It all feels so out-of control. Even the kids we have for youth group want to beat each other up -- at youth group or just outside our kitchen window. Now, I know it may seem ridiculous, but part of me had expected them to act better just by being in and around our home. I mean, we try to help them talk through things and to think before they act. We try to let them know we expect good things from them. We (and others) try to show them what it means when people love each other and care for each other. Heck, with all these role models just a block or two from their houses, you'd think they would all be models of success writing their own biographies about how they overcame the odds!

And then there's the reality. Kids are much more likely to grow up with the same good and bad habits of their parents and their parents are likely living the same habits they have since they were children with their own parents. One person, or even a group of people, stepping into a generational cycle is not going to suddenly undo all the years of people not expecting much of themselves. This thought often bumps into the "perhaps I need to do more" thought at my late-night thought party.

And I was relieved recently to be able to do a little more. I wrote quite awhile back about wanting to be discipled and to disciple someone else. These arrangements are precarious and require the incentive to be taken by both parties somewhat simultaneously in order for them to work. Well, if that doesn't seem highly unlikely. But I seemed to have been chosen by one girl in our neighborhood as a go-to person and decided to always open my door when she knocked and let her be part of our daily lives. If you know anything about me, you will know that idea alone is enough to stress me out for days. I like knowing what to expect around my house. However, actually welcoming her spontaneous company was not bad. Israel took to her immediately and would ask about her in her absence or yell, "Hi!" to her out our window if she was playing outside. But then, last-minute, her dad kept his promise of taking her out of state to live with him for the summer and she was gone. ("Yea!" for keeping promises, "Boo..." for the leaving and lack of stability.) And then things become entirely uncertain in the most hopeful situation I have going and I realize I have no control in that, either. It seems that Ms. Uncertainty just welcomed her friend, Mr. Doubt, to the party.

Then entered Little Miss Sunshine, humming a tune. In reality, we came across it trying to decipher what Israel was singing after church this past Sunday. He had apparently been listening to "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Now, I don't like it when someone gives a short "right answer" to a complicated problem and I really dislike little sayings like, "Let go and let God." Yuck. ...Yuck. But as we sang the words to "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" over and over with Israel and have continued to make up our own verses, it was like welcoming comforting friend to the party. The song became less trite and more an act of faith to sing about each person we know and then end with, "He's got the whole world in His hands." Not only can I not really make a difference here in our neighborhood, but I'm not supposed to be able to. I can't hold anything in my hands; even the one girl I thought would in some respect become "mine," slipped through my fingers. So what great news it is that the job I cannot do is not even my job! I can't change anyone. There. Only God can.

It is not that suddenly the gathering of thoughts disperses. No, God's omnipotence gets its toes stepped on all the time by several of my clumsy thought-guests and there are many other awkward meetings that happen in there all the time. I'm glad, though, that when the conversation becomes mostly depressing, I still have a great old Friend who enters in without being put off by my untidy guests. "Mr. Doubt, meet Mr. Hope. Mr. Hope, here are Mr. Doubt and Ms. Uncertainty. Enjoy your chat."

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