We dedicated Eamon a couple of weeks ago at our church. (Think baptism without the water.) Kyle and I both shared a bit – Kyle a poem by Wendell Berry, and me some words of my own about why we wanted to participate in this ritual. We had a bunch of family and friends there, and it was so special and meaningful and perhaps one of my favorite days ever.
The night before the dedication though, I was feeling anxious about what I was going to say, namely because I was preoccupied with what others were expecting me to say. Or really, my perception of what others were expecting I would say. This is obviously a problematic place to be: trying to figure out what other people may or may not want and then attempting to deliver on those expectations. This is, of course, complicated by the fact that different people want different things and some of those things might be mutually exclusive, therefore guaranteeing that somebody is going to walk away unhappy, or with unmet expectations. Add to that the fact that we were standing up in front of some of our dearest friends: a slew of family from varying political and religious persuasions; a handful of young, white urbanites; at least six farmers; a solid representation of folks from the recovery community; a couple dozen suburbanites; people experiencing homelessness; university professors and physicians; members of the original Civil Rights Movement; a former college roommate; individuals living with varying iterations of mental illness; too many seminary graduates to count, and a gaggle of noisy (but cute!) kids. To name a few.
It didn’t take much for me to admit that my attempt at pleasing the entire crowd and using the exact language that each and every person was comfortable with, and expected to hear in a church, and thought most appropriate for such an event was destined for failure.
Kyle admitted some similar feelings as we discussed this together and finally he said, “I just think we need to tell the truth.”
Not rocket science.
Not what others want to hear.
Not what I think others want to hear.
Just the truth.
And so we did. I shared how the world is really really scary sometimes for me, and even more so now that I’m a mother and I suddenly have nearly no fear for myself, but exorbitant amounts for my son, who I love so much and who brings me the most joy I have ever experienced. And this contradiction of intense feelings is an absurd reality and leaves me feeling very confused and often hopeless. At times I have literally held the BEST thing in my arms (Eamon), while reading or hearing about the WORST events of violence, oppression, prejudice, and greed.
And perhaps the only thing that has kept me from complete and total despair is people alongside me telling the truth.
Telling me that they revel in joy and laughter. Telling me that they’re scared too. Telling me that yes, they get sad when an incident of violence occurs in their alley or in a church in Texas or at a concert in Nevada, but they also get angry. Angry at the circumstances that led to the violence, whether poverty – lack of gun laws – personal trauma – effed up ideology – or none or all of the above. Angry that our government could and should be doing more to respond to, prevent, and control these things but instead is intent on pursuing causes and rhetoric that boost political gain and are irrelevant to what is right and good. And angry that too many people have bought into the lie of helplessness when it comes to some of these issues.
Which is why, on this godforsakenmonday, when my first waking thoughts were of despair because it felt like a little white church in Texas was resting heavily on my chest and I was desperately trying to think of helpful things to do to ward it off (hot tea! prayer! journaling!), I decided to tell the truth.
The truth is:
I’m so grateful.
I have so much.
I’m enamored with this person of Jesus.
I’m disgusted by a helluva lotta Christians.
I love my son more than I will ever be able to articulate.
I hate that “mass shootings” is a line item on my (admittedly long!) list of Things I Fear for My Child.
I’m enraged that NRA lobbiests continue to hold hostage the hope of (even common sense!) gun law reform.
I want the “heroes” of this massacre to be members of Congress enacting policy change.
And, I lost that neat little bow that I’m perceiving some people want me to wrap this post up with.