Something beautiful.

If you know me at all you’ve likely heard me mention my love affair with The Sound of Music. Captain Von Trapp is my dream man, y’all. From the get.

There’s lots I love about the film, but my favorite part, hands down, is the duet the Captain and Maria sing in the gazebo once they’ve found the strength to admit they love each other.

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth…
…Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

And so they sing. Out of the heartbreak and fear they both have known. Out of the sadness they’ve each lived…this moment. This “something good,” that is their life together.

I thought of the Captain and Maria when a friend forwarded an email to me–from Love Does (which, if you aren’t clued into…get on it!). The email held this important reminder, “Like the anger of fire shapes the metal/Like the sorrows of a writer create poetry/Everything that is beautiful does not always start beautifully.” (Noor Unnahar)

Some things do, after all, begin just as beautifully as they become. But what I think is that very little true beauty, very little beauty that’s worth it, comes without some ugliness, some heartache, some downrightgodawfulpain along the way. And it’s more than an ugly ducking becoming a gorgeous swan. It’s more than a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We know these stories. What we don’t know–or at least sometimes have to learn again–is that on the other side of darkness, light dwells. On the other side of hate, love wins.

It’s so hard to see when we’re in the thick of it. So hard to comprehend in the midst of the pain that somehow life might feel good again one day, that maybe all is not lost and there is still a chance at joy. At love. At belonging. Most days I have to talk myself into it. And that’s okay, talking ourselves into it. That’s part of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s pure grit sometimes and that’s all there is to it. Right?

Right.

But here’s the thing–we do not transform without having known pain. We do not become without having been through something significant. We do not grow without having to learn more about who we are–and that sometimes hurts like hell.

(Sidenote: For the love of all that is holy, do not hear me saying that God or whoever causes our pain in order to teach a lesson. That’s utter nonsense at the least and incredibly harmful at worst. No, in our sorrow God sits with us. Constant. Always. In the crap and desperation with us, pointing us towards the light until we’re ready to see it again.)

Because out of the ashes, new things are given life. And out of the despair, hope is born. And in the midst of the darkness, we search for light. This is what it is to be human. To have been so beautifully made. To triumph, as the human spirit so often does, in the midst of the most horrible things.

My heart breaks for so many people and so many things right now. Every day. And there is no way around it. But I also believe with all I am that we only know what it means to be wholehearted once we’ve been fully broken apart. And once we know, once we see what is possible, that’s where beauty is. That’s where epic songs are written and gorgeous stories are shared and twisted, angry metal becomes something lovely to behold.

I can’t quantify it for you. I can’t tell you when or how. And the truth is, so much of what matters most in life can’t be fully measured or known or described. But I know it’s true. And today, knowing that there’s so much pain in the world, and in so many of your lives, my hope is you, too, will know it’s true. Deep in your bones. Something good is possible. Something beautiful can still be made. In spite of–and perhaps, even, because of, in ways we might not ever understand–what has been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

pain, untransformed.

“Pain that is not transformed is transmitted/transferred.” (Richard Rohr)

I came across these words of Richard Rohr’s on a friend’s Facebook page this morning. They struck me. In that “full-stop-catch-your-breath” kind of way.

See, yesterday, I saw my dentist. He’s great, my dentist, but going to see him is not my favorite thing (thanks to a childhood dentist who was, well…not so great), so it had been longer than it should have since my last visit. Thankfully, he does not judge. And simply said, “Let’s go ahead and get some X-rays just to be sure all is well.” So we did, and mostly, all is well. No decay. No disease. And that root canal from a couple years back looks fine. I was feeling pretty great about it all until he said, “But Julie…did you know you are grinding your teeth?”

Now, the truth is…yes, I suspected I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. A sore jaw and neck being the biggest indicators of that. But I mean, I didn’t know. You know, for sure (she says, sheepishly). But it’s hard to argue with X-rays showing the wear on my teeth. So we talked about keeping eye on it, and he said it wasn’t so bad quite yet and blah, blah, blah and maybe next time around we’d see if I needed a mouthpiece, etc.

But what I’m thinking about now is what Mr. Rohr said about pain. About how if it doesn’t get transformed it transfers. About how our physical bodies feel, and how our minds/hearts feel, are so often connected. And so it isn’t  hard for me to imagine that maybe…just maybe…that teeth grinding is really me working things out in my sleep. Things like stress. Things like grief. Things like adjusting to significant change.

You know. Things. All the things.

It reminds me of something Glennon Doyle says, “When I feel someone has been unkind, I know that all that just happened is they felt the hot loneliness, but they didn’t know how to be still with it. So they just treat it like a hot potato and pass it to the next person. But pain is not a hot potato. Pain is a traveling professor. And it just goes and knocks on everyone’s door and the smartest people I know are the people who say, ‘Come in and just don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.'”

Read that again (trust me…read it again).

The smartest people are the ones who let the pain do its work, instead of passing it off to another person in anger or cruelty or harsh words or betrayal or selfish behavior.

God, I’ve been guilty of just passing it on before. Of simply reacting out of my own heartache and misery instead of bravely letting it all do its work so that I might become a better version of myself. And every time…every time…I have eventually regretted that choice.

The truth is that we all bear such deep sorrow. Such hidden hurts. Because this is what it is to be human. Even the most fortunate among us know (or eventually will know) what it is to have the life knocked out of us temporarily and so have to make the difficult choice of whether to emerge victorious from that which has broken us or just…survive.

But passing that sorrow on to others, flexing our pain by transferring it to someone else–gah. This is not the way towards healing.

Nor is letting it fester inside. A wound that just won’t heal and so spreads its heat and toxicity everywhere, throughout us, making the whole of us feel as if nothing will ever be okay again. Or, you know, at least just grinding our teeth down to stubs.

We have to let it do its work. We have to let it drag us down to the dark places so that we can find our way towards light again. We have to let it transform us…from what we were, into what we can be on the other side of it all. And it’s damn hard work, this transformation. Mostly because our plans, our dreams, our images of what who we wanted to be and what we wanted for our lives get dashed along the way.

And y’all, there is very little more painful than the loss of a dream. Than the loss of what we wanted played against what has actually happened. It is so, so hard to let go of what we’d hoped for in our lives. What we’d planned on.

And the pain of that loss…it either destroys or transforms. It either eats us alive or makes us whole again. And some days, the line between destruction and transformation is a very thin one indeed. And sometimes, staying on the transformation side of that line is due to equal parts grit and grace, neither of which requires much strategy or planning ahead.

In the long run, I suspect that our pain’s transformation requires the very uncomfortable work of being vulnerable to it long enough for the pain to lose its power. When we’re vulnerable, when we offer ourselves towards one another and to the Universe with all that’s ugly and torn in us, and ask to be loved anyway…that’s when mercy shows up. And does the slow work of helping us out of the pain and into life again.

Not having transferred that which has hurt us…but having been transformed by it, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

from allthingsclipart.com

WARNING: If you have not seen Wonder Woman, but plan to soon, maybe don’t read this. Or do read it and just consider yourself spoiler alerted. If you have not seen Wonder Woman, and don’t plan to, DO read this. It might change your mind.

I’ve seen it twice now. And started to write about it at least 10 times now. Every time, my thoughts have flooded my fingers faster than I could type, and I have had to back away–not ready. Not focused enough in my thoughts to communicate them effectively. Because there so much to say. So. Much.

Look, the critics, the experts (and some not), the thinkers–they’ve all written about it. And I don’t know that I have anything new or somehow provocatively insightful to say, I just know if I don’t say something, I’ll regret it…because 2017’s Wonder Woman is hands down my new favorite movie. And Diana Prince my new favorite hero. And here’s why:

  1. Because there are times when this life we live feels like a No Man’s Land. After loss or heartbreak or death, our lives can feel like desolate plains of existence. No map. No rules. No sure way through. And it’s tempting to give up. Or to at least focus on the path of least resistance in an effort to simply keep breathing. And the moment when Diana makes the decision to march across that No Man’s Land, bullets or no, bombs or not, destruction be damned, is the most powerful visual I’ve ever seen of what it means to just keep going. To just keep going. No matter what. Through literal hell and into raging battlefield. To just keep going. Because you have to. It’s the only way forward. The only way into something good.
  2. Because sometimes it takes a has-been marksman who can spin a Scottish tune, a Middle Eastern goofball who wants to be an actor, a brave and strong Native American who has lost his homeland, and a slightly nutty but surprisingly smart and willing secretary to round out an earnestly brave soldier and his superhero love in getting the job done. Which is to say–we’ve all got our gifts. Our place in the story. The Story. And we all matter. Help often comes from the most unlikely of places and far be it from us to judge whether a person is capable of being a hero in any given moment. One of the most achingly beautiful parts of the movie for me was hearing Charlie sing again, playing the piano as he did, after they’d saved that sweet French village. All the heartache and horror in his life had been suspended, just for that moment, so he could really live again. Only he could have filled that particular role in Steve Trevor’s gang with such bittersweet heart and tender courage.
  3. (Paraphrasing Steve and Diana) Because very little in this life is about what any of us deserve. Most often it’s about what we believe should be possible for all of us. Because  the best things we know in this life–grace, mercy, love–these things are not about deserve at all. Thanks be–because I’ll tell you right now I wouldn’t always deserve any of it. None of us would. These things are simply and beautifully gifts that the goodness to be found in this life can offer us. And extending them wherever we can, without stopping to think about who or doesn’t deserve them is maybe the best way we can live into really being human.
  4. Because yep…we’re dark. Capable of such selfishness and hurt and wrongdoing. But that’s not all we are. We are so much more. So. Much. More. Diana Prince sees this about humanity in the selfless and full-hearted sacrifice Steve makes, and her ability to see how his actions are what define humanity–not a raging war–is maybe the bravest thing she does. It takes a heroic heart to find beauty when all around you pain and death are evident. But Steve…he is all love…all grace…and in him she’s able to see such healing and powerful hope for the world. And then she’s able to fully take her place in the story. Fully embrace who she is. Completely step into her destiny as Hippolyta’s daughter and do the work she’d come to do.
  5. Because rising above the things that tear us apart takes enormous courage. But we’re built for that kind of courage. We’re wired to be more than our suffering. And as Charlie and Sameer and Etta and The Chief join Diana on Armistice Day, to find their Steve among the wall of heros, they do so standing tall. Bound together irrevocably. More, together, than each of them, even a superhero, could ever be on their own. Having triumphed over tragedy and pain to come full circle into the grace that binds together those who have known heartache and survived.

More than anything, I found in Wonder Woman a challenge to be real. To be vulnerable. To be brave. To rise above the horrible things and give our lives to beauty. To care for one another. To stand up for those who need it and not back down in the face of hate and anger, no matter how loud or fiery or insistent those things are. Because in the end, as is always true and has been since the beginning of time: Love wins. And so the battle is always worth fighting.

Or, as Diana Prince says:

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know, that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.

 

The lowest common denominator.

It’s the only math concept I’ve ever taken to heart, the only one that’s ever made me think, “Ok…maybe…maybe…this math thing is about more than just numbers.” It’s the lowest common denominator, aka, “LCD.”

I detest fractions, just looking at an equation using them makes me twitch, and the only time I ever pay any attention to them is when I’m baking (because, dang, then they matter!).

But I get the idea of a lowest common denominator. 

And what I know is this: When we assume the LCD–whether in math, or relationships, or our civic life, we are settling. For the very least that is possible.

And maybe sometimes this is necessary. Because truthfully, there are folks in this world that cause me to repeat, “She is a human being, too. He is a child of God, too,” over and over so that I won’t be taken over by anger or sadness and then strike out in ways I’ll regret. (And I’m confident I exact the same response in at least a few others.) Sometimes that’s all we can muster. So be it.

But when the LCD becomes our go-to MO, our first response to any given difficulty or challenge in our life together, we’ve got a problem. We’re all capable of cruelty. Of assumption. Of bias that judges and excludes. We’re all capable of hurting others, and we don’t get through life without doing so. But when that becomes our preferred way of operating in the world…well, we might as well give up.

The idea of lowest common denominator ought to be a positive thing, in that it ought to make us think, “Ok, if we can agree on NOTHING else, we can agree on this one thing….” Instead, I fear the LCD we all share has become the capacity for making disagreement personal. The tendency to make a theological or political or philosophical difference in thought cause for personal attack (and most often such an attack has nothing to do with issue at hand). Making fun of and/or mocking someone’s appearance or ethnicity or education level or background…it’s all communal sport these days and I swear to all that is holy I believe it is making us less of the people we were meant to be.

And it isn’t really what we’re after. At our core, we all want to belong. We all want to be safe. We all want to have enough. But we live in a world where far too often exclusion reigns supreme and money talks. And so there those who begin and end every day believing “I do not matter,” and they do so with hungry bellies and feeling decidedly not safe.

If we want to be great again as a people, it’s going to require a level of compassion that is difficult to rise to…but that is also what we’re wired for.

Yep. I said it. And I believe it. That human beings are first and foremost wired for compassion, for relationship–and it’s only when we insist on fighting against this wiring out of fear or misery or heartache or loneliness or all the other things in this life that assail us that things go wrong.

God, I wish I knew how to fix it. The right words to say. The right actions to take–in our own messed-up lives and in the world.

I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect the answers lie in the example we set for our children. We’re failing miserably at the whole “good example” thing as a nation right now, even as there are amazing parents and caregivers and teachers everywhere doing it well, modeling compassion, practicing forgiveness, nurturing respect and kindness. But collectively? Ouch. Not so much.

And y’all? If we want a life–locally, nationally, globally–that lives into the best of what it means to be human–where no one is left out and everyone has a chance at wholeness–then we’d better set about the task of being for our children what we want the world to be for them. I don’t care how we teach it–use math if that’s your thing–but how we exist in relationship to each other makes all the difference. And we have got to figure it out.

Because so much more is possible. There’s so much beyond the lowest common denominator. And if we could get that–and then find a way towards it as a people…. Holy wow…. The possibilities become endless…infinite…beautiful.

From our nation’s capital…hope.

This week was the third time in the last decade that I’ve stepped into the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. And just like the first two times, I felt as if I was stepping onto holy ground. Something a tad “not of this world.” Even with all the tourists milling about and children squealing and the city sounds in the distance, it somehow seems quieter, more still, once you go down the steps and are in the midst of it.

As I’d done twice before, I started in a slow walk around, trying to take in the depth of it all. I tried to notice each state, especially Kentucky and Georgia, the two I claim most. I stopped and read the inscriptions and read again the various places battles of that war took place.

And then, lost in thought, I stumbled on something that has not left me these last few days. (See photo to the left.)

Since I’ve last been there I’ve read Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and learned more about the service of one of my grandfathers, who was a POW in Germany in the last several months of the war. These two things, as well as simply growing older and knowing more about human tragedy have shifted my thinking such that I truly believe we owe the women and men of that war our lives.

And maybe that’s why I stopped. Stood in front of these words for a while, let them sink into my being.

But I think, even more, these words struck me because I fear, these days, we have let down the “heroic men and valiant women.” Let them down horribly. Perhaps–though I’m desperately hoping not–irreparably. 

Because I cannot imagine they gave their lives, their futures, their entire beings, so that we could become a nation that mocks, name calls, finger points and judges one another, as if being the United States of America has become some weird poker game in which the ones with the most of the right kind of chips wins.

(Sidenote: Please do not assume a certain political viewpoint is being espoused here…that defeats the point entirely…we’re all in this mess…together….)

I cannot imagine they gave their lives so that we could become politically deadlocked. Exclusive of anyone not like us. Unable to rise above our own fears and baggage long enough to walk one measly mile in the shoes of a fellow American whose life experience is vastly different than hours.

I cannot imagine they gave their lives for intolerance. For hate. For mistrust. I cannot believe they gave their lives so that we could constantly be at each other’s throats.

And I swear to you all, as I did stood there, hopelessness flooded my soul, and I could not, for the life of me, imagine something good coming out of where we currently find ourselves as a nation. And so I just walked away. Quietly, shaking my head, and feeling really heavy of spirit. It was all I could do to muster the faux cheerfulness needed to convince my very tired and hot Curly Girl that it was worth the extra steps down the length of the reflecting pool to see someone important to her: Abraham Lincoln (her school’s namesake and hero).

She and I both rallied, even if slowly, and off we went.

She walked purposefully, with the measured steps of someone who is really exhausted but also determined to see it through. And as she and I both approached the steps that lead up to Mr. Lincoln, we took a deep breath, and I let her walk ahead of me a bit, since this was her first time to experience it. 

Because I walked behind her, I got to see this (Again, see photo to the left.) I got to see my daughter as she took in the sight of Abraham Lincoln as we’ve enshrined him in this country. And as she stood there, head cocked to one side, not saying a word, but I’m sure taking it all in the way she always does, I remembered reading these words, ones I’ve written about before, of the one she’d come to see:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

“We are not enemies…We must not be enemies…by the better angels of our nature.”

Holy hell, y’all. Across the centuries his words rang.

If anyone would know the heartache of a nation ripped apart by difference, it’d be Abe. And dear merciful Lord how we need those better angels to prevail right now. It was as if the words had been written for these very days. And I wondered at the beauty of that and also the awfulness of it. 

And I thought, as I watched my daughter, looking so tiny at the feet of such a majestic figure, what a mighty thing it is to realize how very human we are, such that we once again find ourselves divided as a nation. And also what a lovely thing it is to realize how very human we are, such that we are capable of rising to the occasion, of finding a way forward, of healing, of moving into new ways of being as a nation–just as we’ve done before.

It’s bad, y’all. I know. But we are not without hope. We have guides. Giants who have gone before and who, if we’ll let them, can continue to show us the way. And we have the ones coming behind us, guides in their own right, who know more about what it means to love with complete abandon and lack of condition than we ever did. In their tiny hearts, their just-beginning journeys, are perhaps our best hope of all.

It’s hard, y’all. I know. For a million reasons and in a million ways. But dear God it’s also worth it. We’re better than what we’ve been. And capable of so much more.

And so, dear better angels…rise within us. Insist upon your presence. Demand our attention. Be in our words, our actions, our choices. Stay with us. Even when we push you away because we want our own way. Prevail upon us. 

Prevail.

 

 

 

Baggage.

“Life is a series of comings and goings. The trick is not to forget your baggage.”

These words were sent to me written on a card some 25 years ago. The card was sent by a friend who’d gone off to college before me. We’d been doing high school theater together for a couple of years and had grown close and I’d missed him as a new year of theater rehearsals had started. His card put a smile on my face as did his stories of getting settled into his freshman year of college.

I thought of that card today, and the words written on it. Mostly because I was thinking about baggage. Not the good kind you want to take along on your next vacation or weekend getaway. The other kind. The kind that we can’t forget, no matter how distracted we might be or how hard we might try.

You know what I mean. The baggage of the heart.

Such baggage doesn’t just get set aside. Or stored away in the upstairs closet. Or left on trains or in car trunks or beside airport gate area chairs. Such baggage sticks with us. Like its fulltime job is reminding us of where we’ve been and how that might keep us from where we want to go. Such baggage is equal parts grief and heartache and betrayal and loss and anger and emptiness, the combined forces of which are, when let loose, a mighty thing indeed to be reckoned with.

We all have it. In one shape or size or form or another, we all have it. On our best days, it serves us well–catapulting us with the sort of strength honed from challenge and adversity into whatever it is our life is beckoning us towards. On our worst days, it serves more as a deadweight. Like someone tossed a cement block in the bottom of your soul and there’s no way you’ll be able to lug it up and carry it forward.

These days, I wonder if “the trick” is not about whether we forget it at all (because the changes of that are slim), but about how we manage it, if we must carry it with us. This is easier said than done. And it often depends on the moment as to how well it happens. Some days, it’s as easy as simply sliding that chunk of what has been into the pocket of my day bag and getting on with things. I am who I am and all that, but no letting it define me, hamstring me, trap me.

Other days…good lord…other days it’s like I dragged Great Aunt Matilda’s horsehair trunk out of the family attic and decided it’d be a great idea to try to cart that thing around all day. Because, you know, it’s My. Stuff. It’s my life–good, bad and ugly–all cooped up in there and I’m going to bear it like a coat of arms if I need to.

Because sometimes our baggage makes us feel safe. Even if it brings out the worst in us, wreaking havoc on our days with its deadly accurate memory of past hurts and failures…even then, we know it. We understand it. I mean…it’s ours, right?

Right. Except…you can’t tote that trunk too far. It weighs you down. Keeps you from moving very far or very fast. Blocks efforts at transformation or renewal with its heft and makes us hesitant. Timid. Insecure.

Which is when you might think about saying: Back it up, sister. Pump the brakes. Not like you can get far with all that business you’re carrying around anyway. It’s time to take a long, hard look at what needs holding on to, what refines you, and what needs letting go of.

(…like the notion you can’t end a sentence with a preposition. 😉 )

What I’ve decided is that our best bet lies in making friends with our baggage. Or, if that seems to much to ask, at least declaring an easy truce and safe distance. There’s a whole lot I don’t know, and am not sure of, but one thing I do know, and am sure of, is this: We cannot change the past.

There is no editing what has been. No softening the edges of the things have threatened to destroy us. The brutal things in this life happen. And we don’t get a do-over.

But if we’re very, very lucky…we do get a second chance. We do get a future. We do get the possibility of something or someone or some place new. And where our baggage gets placed along the way, how it gets managed (or simply set aside) on the other side of it all…well, that’s maybe the most important thing. It’s a hard thing…letting go of all that baggage after all. And maybe even impossible. But letting it control us? Define us? I can’t settle for that either.

And so, I think what I’ll settle for, pray for, do my damnedest to remain open for, is the tremendous mercy of the slow work of grace…moving its away across our lives with such careful and determined intention, showing us, if we’ve eyes to see, that all is not lost. That there is hope. That there is a way forward.

And maybe–I’m not quite convinced, but just maybe…that baggage helps something beautiful be made known, such that we are led to exactly where we’re meant to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Fidget spinners and communion…how it is that we belong to each other.

There isn’t much more chaotic than my down-the-street Kroger on a Wednesday afternoon on a warm summer day.

Typically, I avoid the grocery store like the plague unless it’s after dinner, or early in the morning. But in this case we’d been mostly out of town for six days and the cupboards, they were bare. As the Curly Girl put it, “We don’t even have chocolate milk!” Gasp.

We survived the actual shopping, and so I (mistakenly) thought we were home-free. As we headed across a busy parking lot, loaded down with cart full of bags, I heard a voice say, “Hey ma’am, you know they’re selling these again, right?” I turned to see a young man, Kroger-uniformed, hanging by a bunch of a carts. And in his hand was…wait for it…a fidget spinner. (If you do not know what this is, all I can say is Lucky. You.)

I nodded my head, and (I thought) nicely, said, “Yes…thanks,” and kept moving the cart, the girl-child and me along.

“Wait–you don’t want one?” I heard, and I turned again–this time the young man was walking towards us. I shook my head, kept moving. And then he said, louder, “What? You don’t support these? You a teacher or something?”

At which point I stopped. Took a firm grip of CG’s hand, lodged the cart against one foot, and turned, holding up my other hand, and said (not nicely), “I am not interested.”

As we turned and moved quickly away I heard him swear under his breath and let out a, “FINE!”

I could care less about fidget spinners–for or against. I mean, sure, they’re trendy and fun and whatever but honestly I’ve got a million other things on my mind. I was annoyed at the parking lot hard sell for sure, but more than that, I was struck by his word choice, “You don’t support these?”

Support? A cheap piece of plastic and metal? Um…no. I support equality for all people. I support my daughter’s school. I support the nonprofit where I work with both time and money. I support my friends and family in their efforts to live meaningful lives.

I do not support a toy. Of any kind. Such things are not causes to support, but products to be consumed. And to paraphrase my hero (and my daughter’s namesake) Madeleine L’ Engle, “consumer” is really an awful word if you think about it. “Cancer consumes,” she once wrote, following the death of her beloved husband.

We consume a lot in these United States. But what frightens me the most is that lately, what we seem to consume most is each other. And we do so by labeling. But pitting us against them. By any of many assumptions we make about each other based on any number of outward appearances. And…by making what one “supports,” their sole identity.

I could hear it in his voice, “What, you don’t support this super fun and trendy thing? You must be a total buzzkill.”

Sort of like, “You vote Democrat? Ah, you must be a bleeding heart leftist who cares nothing about individual responsibility or morality.” Or, “GOP? Well, then you must hate poor people and women. Gay people too.”

Or, “You’re a Millennial? Well, you must be selfish and lazy.” Or, “Baby Boomer? You must only care about money.”

We do it all the damn time. Over a million things. If you support X, you must be Y (You know I’m wound up when I start hinting at algebra in writing…sheesh!) And yea, I know the cart guy was probably just bored and maybe just wanted to start a conversation and perhaps needed a wee lesson in boundaries (READ: Do not continue to approach a mom and young child in a parking lot when said mom is actively walking away from you.) But everything about it reminded me of how we pigeonhole each other to death in this country.

We’re in a damn mess, y’all. Politically, spiritually, environmentally and otherwise in this country. And I know that any of you who happen to read what I write regularly will not be surprised at what I’m about to say, and are probably real tired of hearing me say it, but we stand no chance–NO. CHANCE.–at any healing and whole way forward unless we do so together.

For the love.

Look, there are beliefs I hold dear. That I would fight for if necessary. That I stake my life on. And that I am convinced with every fiber of my being are the “right way.” And mostly these things have to do with compassion and equality and how we treat each other as human beings.

There’s also this: I am a Christian. And for me, that means doing the best I can at loving God and following Jesus. Even though most days I fail miserably at this. But here’s what keeps me in the game: Community. Real, true, binding-to-one-another community. Community that you can’t find your way out of it because it holds you so close to its heart.

In my church, we celebrate communion every week. And everyone is welcome. Because we believe that’s how Jesus intended it. We believe that God’s love as expressed in that moment is for everyone. Everyone.

That means that every week I share a deeply spiritual experience with all sorts of people. Many of them people that I disagree with vehemently when it comes to politics or social issues. Many of them people that I would not necessarily otherwise be in relationship with. All of us people who have made mistakes, hurt other people, fallen short of what God has called us to be. And yet…there we are. Same moment. Same bread and cup. Same God. And I don’t even pretend to know how each of us processes it or experiences it, but I know that it matters. And that some weeks, it is all that keeps me from giving up entirely on this world of ours.

Because we belong to each other. We simply do. By sharing the same air and walking on the same Earth we belong to each other. My own faith calls me to take that up a notch and add, “And because the same force of love and goodness created us all…we belong to each other.”

If I could etch this on all our hearts, write it painstakingly across all our souls, I would. Because I believe with all that I am that it is the only way.