(A SEASON OF NEW GROWTH #3)
Monday, May 31st
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28, NRSV)
Our work to prepare the soil of our souls isn’t finished until any remaining clumps of hardened dirt are broken apart. When soil consists of clumps that are hard and dry, roots have difficulty extending and rain is not easily absorbed. A garden cannot flourish through ground that is firm and impenetrable.
This word – clumps – reminds me of a game we once played in our church youth group. “Clumps” was a fast and easy game in which a leader would call out a number and a defining characteristic, and the teens would gather (clump) together accordingly. The leader might ask for “six people with the same eye color” or “five people who are in the same grade,” and the teens would rush to form into groups. Any leftover teens would be out of the game until the next round.
The game of Clumps provided fun and laughter for our teens, but today God seems to be showing me the harm of clumping in my daily life. I am thinking of my tendency to form people into clumps according to one (often superficial) characteristic. Worse, I am thinking of my tendency to assign other characteristics – often the most extreme or negative qualities – to that clump.
I humbly share some examples…
~ After 9-11, I was so grateful that an area church arranged to have an Imam from the Islamic Temple speak to us about his faith. I learned so much that day, especially that the 9-11 terrorists were far from what the Islamic faith holds true; the Muslim people strive to live and serve in love, just as I do. Yet, it still took some time for me to stop clumping anyone who (I thought) appeared to be Muslim into a group of potential terrorists.
~ During the isolation of the pandemic, I found that I was increasingly assigning people to clumps solely based on their political views posted on social media. I began to lose sight of the qualities and beliefs we had in common; I began to forget the joys of our friendship when we were together in community. Instead, I began seeing people according to the political views they held, whether or not they wore masks, and what stances they took on social issues that are important to me. I struggled with seeing the whole person, often letting one tenet or viewpoint define them.
Forgive me, God, for these clumping ways of mine!
We are complex and multi-faceted individuals, full of nuance and depth. We are so much more than our appearance, religion, nationality, political stance, orientation, or economic class. One trait does not begin to encompass our entirety. One vote does not mean we completely embrace a person or platform. One act does not define our life.
We have been uniquely created by God, who seems to have an affinity for diversity and variety.
How might new life grow if we were to envision our world as one giant clump of diverse human beings, all fully beloved by God? If we were to recognize that our universal God wants us to clump around love alone? If we were to ask God to help us break down our clumps and to see the need for diversity, until we become one world of soft and aerated soil…?
I see a world where everyone has the freedom and courage to lovingly extend our roots into an interconnected system of support; a world of soft and open soil for the water of life to be absorbed by all of creation. I see a world where our roots are so intertwined that there is no room for the weeds of fear and hatred to grow. I see a world of new growth, new health, new life, together.
“Where the Spirit is moving, love for God always, always, always overflows in love for neighbor. And according to Jesus, our neighbor isn’t just the person who is like us, the person who likes us, or the person we like. Our neighbor is anyone and everyone – like us or different from us, friend or stranger – even enemy. As Peter learned in his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10), the Spirit wants to break down walls of prejudice and hostility so that we stop judging us as clean and them as unclean, opening the way for strangers and enemies to become neighbors, friends, family.”1
We may not be able to change the world, but we do have the ability to change ourselves. How might we begin to make that happen today – in ourselves, our homes, our communities? What is one clump we might begin to break apart in order to foster healthy growth?
1McLaren, Brian. We Make the Road by Walking. Jericho Books (New York, Boston, Nashville).
Photo by Karen