2016 – Day 2


Day 2 of the New Year. The hangovers have lifted and thus begins the onslaught of New Year/New Me social media posts. The ephemeral week between Christmas and New Year’s with its odd work and school schedules gave us a break from real life and it’s so easy to see all the ways we could be better, our lives could be better and huge changes all seem possible and within reach. It may sound cynical, but I’m not that into the whole resolution mentality. I always find the whole New Year’s Eve thing with all its glitter and fakery to be empty and fairly depressing. By January 2, the glitter has been swept up and dumped in the nearest garbage can and reality is poised to return first thing Monday morning. And so we find the need to post our resolutions on social media in hopes that doing so will keep us accountable and/or in hopes that someone will take the journey with us.

I spent decades of my life wondering if I would ever be good enough, if I would ever measure up. I was in constant competition with a ghost who couldn’t be beat. And for what? It didn’t make me a better person. It made me sad, lonely, and angry. So I spent the last few years resolved not to get sucked into the whole resolution nonsense ever again. I’m done with the whole idea that if I only fix [fill in the blank] that life will somehow be better. But this past year or two, I’ve softened a bit. I know I’m not perfect and at the same time, I know I have tendency to expect perfection from myself. And maybe, just maybe, I need to find the middle ground of simply being human.

It seems kind of odd to me that we end the year immediately after celebrating the birth of Jesus. We took a truly new beginning and made it an ending. Then we took an artificial man-made new beginning that seems hellbent on glossing over and/or forgetting the past and put that at the head of our calendar. Jesus’ birth changed all of human history but it didn’t happen all at once. Think about that. Jesus came into human existence as an infant. He didn’t walk out of the stable a week later and start preaching parables. His first new year was spent learning how to talk, how to walk, how to feed himself, and he spent the rest of his life learning what it was to be fully human, all the while being fully divine. Why do we so easily toss aside that idea of infancy and childhood a week after celebrating his birth? Are we that afraid of the humanity of Jesus that we’d rather ignore it entirely in favor of his divinity?

The images of Jesus learning to coo and giggle, and to toddle along, catching himself on Mary’s skirts to keep from toppling over should be ones we consider. If God himself learned to be human one little developmental milestone at time, building each year on the lessons of the one which preceded it, why do we seem so determined to start over fresh and new ever time we buy a new calendar. Why do we constantly need to reinvent ourselves every single year?

I rang in 2016 but there will be no New Me. Just me. Learning to be me. Building on yesterday. And I’m more likely to need to ease up on myself than to hold myself accountable. And if I need someone to walk that journey with, I don’t need to look far. He’s already walking it with me.

Imago Dei

imageo dei

In the hours after the Paris attacks, I had an exchange with a certain priest online. I had challenged him, as a man of God, to tell me what God had to say about this evil rather than posting articles about dangerous refugees written by some opinionated member of the media. It was surprising, and rather disconcerting, that a man who can usually rattle off God’s opinion on everything had no certain answers but rather a question.

His question: I have conflicted ideas on what God says about this evil. Is this just plain evil or is this a purification? What do you think?

My answer: I don’t believe God is ever cruel and for events like this to be a purification would be cruel. So that leaves evil, which we know thrives on rage, hatred, fear, and cruelty. How many times has humanity faced horrors brought about by these things and sworn by all that is holy that it will never happen again? But within a generation, two at the most, we forget. We go back to feeding fear, anger, rage and hatred and then sit back, shocked that evil rises again in the world. God weeps not for us, but with us. And like a parent, God will continue to show us the way over and over and over until we learn it. All of humanity is made in the image and likeness of God. And until all of humanity learns this lesson, we will repeat the cycle.

I could go on to write volumes about the outpouring of support and prayers for Paris, or on the rising xenophobia across the Western world, or on the way history has a terrifying way of resembling the future. But instead I ask the question: Do you remember Aylan?

So many of you told me two months ago that you would never forget him. I hope you do remember and I hope you remember this about him: his family was fleeing the very same violent monsters that unleashed hell in Paris on Friday night.

What do you think God says of this evil? What will it take for us to learn the lesson of imago dei? And once we do, how do we teach it to others?