I have been moving at a frenetic pace, friends. Every minute of every day it seems, and I hardly have words to put to the whirlwind of desperate activity in my mind.
Two thousand seventeen has been a series of flash floods; powerful, destructive, and pulling everything off its foundation. I feel like I’ve spent December trying to distract myself from the devastation — QUICK, BETH! DO ALL THE THINGS! COOK! CLEAN! TRAVEL! MAKE CINNAMON BREAD, STAT! — and simultaneously picking through the rubble to see what’s left.
Refugee crisis = FLASH FLOOD.
Brexit = FLASH FLOOD.
America elected the Lyingest President of All Time = FLASH FLOOD.
Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women and bans immigrants during the largest displacement of vulnerable populations the world has ever known is mainly supported by Christian Evangelicals. FLASH FLOOD.
The camp our kids have always attended — the one at which Greg and I met and volunteered for 24 years — has notified those of our ilk (who are affirming and inclusive of our gender and sexual minority (GSM) neighbors) that we are no longer allowed to be in leadership roles. FLASH FLOOD.
And, of course, the knock-down, gut-punch, breathless realization that our GSM friends were systematically wounded by our churches and our camp all along, while we remained silent and were complicit in maintaining the power structure that caused such pain. FLASH FLOOD. And ugh.
Flash floods, friends — calamity after calamity — are running down the hills of 2017 and crashing together at the bottom, the confluence too tumultuous to separate into streams that can can be crafted into concise explanations. Words become hard to shape from the madness, and my pace in trying to outrun the landslides keeps increasing. It’s like being manic, I suspect, this relentless frenzy I find so appealing lately. Like being on uppers, rushing from cooking to baking to cleaning to shopping to wrapping to cooking again. Running to events. Running up the stairs because I forgot my wallet. Running out the door to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, and the next. No time to rest or else 2017 will catch me, and I’ll be swept away.
My right butt cheek hurts — it has for days, so if anyone can explain why and what to do about a butt injury other than, you know, rest, please do tell — and also my left bicep, the space between my shoulders, and the back of my skull. I should sit down. I should go to sleep at a reasonable time. I should stop watching zit popping videos until midnight. Instead, I pop ibuprofen like it’s candy and keep going as fast as my internal monologue which never stops. “THOSE 6 LOAVES OF CINNAMON BREAD ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE THEMSELVES, BETH. DO MORE.”
Do you get it, friends? Do you know what I’m saying?
I mean, I realize I could blame “the Season.” There’s so much to do for Christmas, after all, but if I’m honest it’s not Christmas. Sadly, no. The pressure comes from me in my haste to busy myself out of feeling all that 2017 has had to offer.
But I went to church this morning — our church that kept us when the other churches had no room for us in the inn — and I sat with the cool college humans, and I sang the Christmas songs, and I discovered I have something important to tell those of us who are the Frenzied Folks right now. I remembered something critical.
We are in the middle of the mess.
Which also means we need to be on the lookout for the magic.
I FORGOT for a while. I forgot that there is ALWAYS magic in the mess. Even though we talk about it ALL THE TIME here, I forgot until Pastor Kim talked about the Mystery.
Pastor Kim is our children’s pastor. She wore her grey dreads up in a yellow wrap this morning, and she was very beautiful and very brave as she taught her lesson to the kids on the big brown rug, with us, the host of larger humans, looking on.
“Sometimes we can walk through a Mystery and not even know it’s there,” she said. “And this is a time of Mystery, because we are waiting for Jesus to be born, but Jesus is also already here.”
Now, remember, friends, that you can substitute “Love” for “Jesus” anytime we get too Jesusy up in here, and the point is the same. Love made flesh and dwelling among us. Love that challenges everything we thought we knew. Love that champions the lonely and distressed. Love that is fierce. Love that makes the weak strong. Love that never fails.
Sometimes we can walk through a Mystery and not even know it’s there. And this is a time of Mystery, because we are waiting for Love to be born, but Love is also already here.
THE WORLD IS SUCH A MESS RIGHT NOW. But there is magic in the mess, friends. There is magic here, too, for those of us on the lookout. There is magic, called Love, and even as we’re longing for it, not sure we can wait for it to be made REAL, to be BORN already and dwell among us, it’s also already here. And we get to make more.
The flash floods of 2017 took out some of our foundations, sure, but only the faulty ones. False worship of America. False adherence to Silence and Compliance. The false idol of Maintaining the Status Quo. But I’m digging through the rubble now, and I’m starting to hit bedrock; a firmer foundations than the former could ever be. Two thousand seventeen has given me the gift of sight. The cards are on the table. We know where folks stand. We know who’s in. We know who’s out. And we get to pick where and with whom we stand. We get to pick what we stand for.
As for me and my people, we serve Love. That’s it. That’s the foundation. So we stand with the vulnerable. We make camp in the wreckage with the outcasts. We share whatever little we have as refugees of another life, even if all we have is our words. We are the Magic-Bringers, after all. The Agents of Love. The Justice Mongers. The Voice Amplifiers. We are the Hope-ers who sit in the darkness and believe the dawn is coming. We are the ones grasp the hands of our neighbors and whisper, “You don’t wait alone.”
This year has asked a lot of us. A LOT, a lot. And next year looks to bring its own share of the mess, so we must be very brave. But remember how the Christmas story started, with an angel saying, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid. We have every reason to be, but we can defy fear anyway. We can embrace the promise of dawn after darkness. We can search for the magic in the mess. And we can stand together on Love…
…which I’m sending you now,