I fold one or two loads of laundry on my bed every night. It’s a (somewhat irritating and strangely reassuring) ritual and a way to try to keep up. Progress, not perfection, I tell myself. Somehow I still need reminding that I’m human. Not every stitch of laundry needs to be clean and folded and put away. That’s the thing about striving for perfection, it doesn’t even make any sense. There’s really no reason for all the clothes to be clean.
We only really need a day’s worth at a time.
I’m in recovery and my sponsor says, Don’t be so hard on yourself, Heather. When you’re stressed, you regress. Just wait. Just wait. Little by little, I kind of keep up, with the laundry and with changing for the better.
On this particular night last week, with laundry on the bed, I was bone weary from progress and the letting go and the holding on, the chapped lips and short temper, the anxiety and change. I was one big backache and heartache. I was feeling especially human.
I was rolling the day over and over to try to make sense of it while rolling one sock into another. I’ve been trying to be grateful instead of overwhelmed or negative. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Whatcha wanna do tomorrow?
This was last week and the TV was on over on the dresser with the volume almost all the way down. The Republican Convention people looked like mimes, especially when they were all fired up. They would excitedly yell and sometimes pound their fists on the podium. They were almost entirely muted and that seemed right to me.
We need to stand for something, I understand, but maybe I’m just too weary. Politics and Religion have a way of getting people to put on some really ugly things. Exclusive things. Judgmental things. Arrogant and self-righteous things. The sort of foot-stomping and podium pounding things that yell, This land is our land! This land is not your land!
A few days after the convention was on, I was pulling weeds from the dirt along our sidewalk. I was thinking about listening. I want ears that sit on the edge of their seats; that bring me into the story that’s being told by whoever comes my way. I want to sit in the middle of another’s point of view, no matter how we differ, politically or theologically. I want the stories to move from head to heart, reminding me that we’re all the same.
Listening well is one of the best ways to love well. I see it in my children, how it changes them when I stop what I’m doing and really listen. They are amazing story tellers, my children, captivating and funny. I have to work hard to listen sometimes, but when I do, we are all softer and more open, more vulnerable and pliable for the ways we must, we must change and see one another. We cannot live and love and feel a sense of belonging here in this house day after day if we do not honor each other’s stories.
This house is your house. This house is my house.
You are a story. Every story needs a place to belong.
I’ve heard a lot of teachers and preachers talk about my political responsibility as a Christian. I’ve seen a lot of bumper stickers and signs about God and politics.
I’m a mother on the bed with laundry every night and I listen to the stories my children tell me. We dig in the dirt together and run through the sprinkler. I tell them about God in all things. We talk about what He’s doing as we walk and ride along in a minivan and right before we go to sleep. We say together, Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Whatcha wanna do today? We don’t talk about how other people live unless my kids have questions and they will and they do. Then I handle what I say carefully, because it’s only my job to keep myself in check and even then, I rely fully on grace. Yes, I want to do what’s right, but I believe doing right flows out of feeling wholly loved, not out of condemnation.
What will my children think, I wonder, if I tell them “they” are wrong and we’re right and we need to stand up to all the others? Kids are simple thinkers. I’m right = I’m better. I don’t want their faith grounded in those weeds, so to speak.
My children will not have their faith stripped from them if I tell them we’re all the same. So I dig in the dirt and think about how I want my children to know love and grace by living it out with all people. It’s not a competition and it’s not political, it’s about a God Man of unconditional love, a bridge to grace. We’re all down here in the mud, digging around, finding our way. That’s what I was thinking while getting my clothes muddy for the nightly laundry routine, crawling around on my knees and weeding. I don’t want to bow to We’re Right, so I’ll never tell my children that this is our land and it’s founded on our beliefs and now the other side and the bad people are trying to change it and make it bad. That’s religion talking, not faith. It can be confusing, because it’s a lot like deciphering some weeds from some plants. The leaves look so much alike, but then when you take a good look at the vine, you can tell the difference.
I grabbed hard down close to the dirt and tugged for the roots of one of those big deceiving weeds. We had let it grow and grow because we thought it was supposed to be there, it looked so much like a good thing. At first it wouldn’t budge so I got mad and I grunted and got some leverage and it then it ripped loose, exposing the spiky and spreading root that was trying so hard to stay underneath.
Yes, we vote. We care a lot about the issues of our day. There isn’t a convention or a church that could convince me how to vote though. I hope that’s true for my kids, too. I hope their vote comes from a place rooted in grace and listening, opportunity and education. I hope they are passionate about the stories of all people, honoring each one based on so much more than a one word label. Gay, Immigrant, Christian, Poor, Homeless, Jewish, Buddhist, Liberal, Republican…
struggling, triumphant, weary, angry, giddy, imperfect, beautiful,
loved…we’re all the same.
This land is your land.