This past Sunday I learned of a phenomenal little poem by Langston Hughes. Its called “Tired” and it goes like this:
I am so tired of waiting,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two –
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.
As we approach Holy week, I am thinking a bit about where I’m at with this whole practice of death and resurrection that we celebrate throughout the year. Its been a difficult few years and its hard to know where I’m at some days. Often, I wonder if I should just chart my own path as it seems the ones I can see in front of me are sorely lacking.
Hearing LH’s poem this weekend reminded me of a day in the thick of the pandemic when I was attending a staff meeting for the church I was working for at the time. One of my co-workers was lamenting all the pain the world was in and wondering in his musings with God, “Did it have to be this bad? Was all this pain necessary?”
A legitimate question to be sure. One with no easy answers.
But I also remember my very first instinct in that moment of lament. It was purely visceral:
“Of course it had to be this bad! Don’t you see how screwed up we all are?!”
Let me explain. I’ve spent some time in recent months reconciling the faith of my childhood (Roman Catholicism) and the faith of my adulthood (American Protestantism). The longer I live the more grateful I am to have these two traditions informing my sense of things. Roman Catholicism is so old its like having a 90 year old grandparent in your heart 24/7. She’s crochety and doesn’t change quickly but frankly, she doesn’t sweat the small stuff either. She knows who she is and what she stands for. She knows everything irons out in the end so can we all just sit down and admire the stained class windows in this gorgeous cathedral we’re all sitting in as opposed to wringing our hands in the pews about the child who’s not getting into the Ivy leagues next year.
American Protestantism is the faith of my adult years and she’s like the young and inexperienced parent in the room. She’s got responsibilities to young people that feel really overwhelming and she feels like she has to know what the right answer is rather than just taking a blessed seat for a minute to realize she just doesn’t know the answer right now and that is really quite alright. Breathe mama. You’re not actually in charge of the faith trajectory of the entire globe. Serve your people and set some hard limits on yourself before you have a heart attack at 45.
As I endured the pandemic crazy I feel like my Roman Catholic heart was winning the day. I was looking around at everyone losing their ever loving mind and wondering why no one realized that all of this made perfect sense. God and Langston Hughes were on the same page. When you’re no longer beautiful and kind to one another, a loving God has no qualms about cutting us right open to get to the bottom of what’s making us this way. I thank God for that, truly. To the day I die I will thank God for not thinking so little of us that he’s not willing to slice us right open so he can get down to what’s truly screwed up inside of us.
Which by the way, is something I’ve learned best in my adult journey of faith. We’re beautifully and wonderfully made and at the same time there are fatal flaws in all of us that block the good things from growing back strong if we don’t deal with them head on. And so, we’re cut in two in order to do just that. The cut could happen in our 30s or in our 70s if we avoid it long enough but it will happen sure as rain. God goes all the way down to where the mud puddles and the worms slither because it just so happens to be the very same place where a seed has to sit for days or weeks before it can come to life as its own beautiful, never before seen in this particular way, creation.
A friend of mine came by the house a few weeks ago. We were watching our kids play and catching up on things in between snacks and skinned knees. Somehow our chat turned a bit serious and she shared a little kernel of her life with me.
“Honestly, I think this is where we’re at.” She said. “The stress of the last few years has just killed our marriage. I think we might be dead.”
And after 20 years of faith I could say with a smile as big as the state of Georgia on my face that “My dear, in my world that’s incredibly good news. I believe in the resurrection.”
It was a Holy Spirit moment for sure as even after 39 years of faith immersion there are days I wonder if this is all one giant joke. That moment was one of many answers I’ve gotten over the past few months which have amounted mostly to this:
“Its not a joke dear one. I’ve not abandoned you I’ve simply put you in the ground because its time for you to change.”
Which now makes me want to ask everyone that I meet:
Are you dead yet?
If so, I say to you dear reader. you’re in a most holy tender space. Don’t abandon ship now. After all, its only when you know you’re dead that you can you begin to know the power of the resurrection.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11