Rector's Blog: Uncurated Love
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I remember watching TV when I was a kid and waiting for those commercial breaks. This was when you got a refill of your drink, or grabbed a snack or, in the most dire of situations, went to the bathroom. I say dire because of course we didn’t have any way to pause whatever we were watching, so every time we left the room, we were risking missing part of the show forever. Bathroom trips during commercial breaks were risky. How many times did I almost break a leg trying to get past the ottoman in a mad dash for the kitchen, pantry, or bathroom during those precious minutes? Sometimes I was the one stationed in front of the TV while a friend made a break for it, and I had to yell out, “Quick it’s back on! Get here! GET HERE!”
This sounds like the distant past. It’s certainly a reality my children have never known. They don’t know what it’s like to thumb through a TV Guide and find out which shows were new, and which were reruns, and they can’t even fathom the idea of having two shows they like on at the same time and having to choose.
Our lives are so curated now. We consume what we want when we want it, TV, music, food, news, friendship, community – it’s all carefully chosen at our convenience and in a way that suits our tastes best. This has been a particular double-edged blade of the pandemic. On one hand, the sheer magnitude of content at our fingertips, and the convenience of digital connection has made so much of this time manageable, hasn’t it? Tuning into podcasts and jumping onto livestreams (or recordings of live events) at my convenience and in my pajamas has been pretty lovely. Zoom Bible Study has been pretty fantastic. On the other hand, I have retreated more fully into myself, and in this time of loneliness I have been able to make my little world more of what I want it to be. I have also had to deal with the inconvenience of other people less. No more mad dashes for the pantry during the commercial break.
Let me be clear, I’m not here to write wistfully about the “good old days”. I mostly like my curated life. I am, however, noticing something about how God works. God seems to do the most work with me in the spaces where I have less control, where I’m inconvenienced, where I have done the least curating. God is at work in the most dark and difficult recesses of my life. I can sense God in the places of difficulty more obviously than those spaces where I have it how I want it.
At the church where I became Episcopalian a man named Mark taught a class on what it meant to be part of the Church. He talked about walking along the beach when he was young and collecting rocks, going back to his home and sticking the rocks into a rock tumbler. The rocks would go into the tumbler all dull and jagged. They’d come out smooth, shiny, and beautiful. What caused the transformation? What happened while they were in the tumbler? Well, they tumbled against each other. They were forced to bump up against each other again and again, and in that process, they were transformed into something beautiful.
This was a tidy metaphor, to be sure, but one that has stuck with me for almost 20 years now: The Church is a community that defies perfect curation. We have certain similarities, some shared values, and common beliefs – but so much of our strength is in the simple fact that we are thrown together and told to hold on. The friction matters. It changes us whether we ask it to or not.
Of course, we don’t want to be thrown together, and in this time, we don’t have to be. We can live so much of our lives on our terms – even in the face of a worldwide pandemic we find a way to navigate so much of our lives in the manner of our choosing. But the church seeks to inconvenience us by giving us to one another. The church is an agent of transformation, and the primary method of transformation is the relationships of unconditional love that are forged within the rock tumbler community of our congregation.
Our lives are changing so much right now. Our church is changing so much right now. It’s inconvenient. Period. Doubly so if we were looking forward to things getting back to normal after the pandemic. First because we don’t even know when the end of the pandemic will be, and second because we are seeing more clearly that there will be no going back to normal. We are forging a new normal. We are moving forward into the dark that comes right before the dawn not knowing what the new day will bring. Knowing only that whatever comes our way, we will have God and we will have each other.
We will have God and we will have each other. One thing that has become so apparent during this time is just how much we need community. But not just any community: Our hearts yearn for community that is rooted and grounded in Love, in helping us to be loved and to love in real and practical ways. This kind of community helps us see God here and now, in our midst. I encourage you, my beloved siblings in Christ Jesus, to look for God in your midst. I ask you to see how God is meeting you in the discomfort and inconvenience, in the uncertainty and newness. The God who defies curation is drawing you deeper into a community that is rooted and grounded in Love. Real and true and unconditional and transformational Love.
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