In case you live under a rock and missed it, Valentine's Day was two days ago. Aside from being a commercial monstrosity of a holiday, it is a day to celebrate love in all its many forms. Traditionally, gifts are exchanged, flowers given, candy bought, etc. Normally guys that are not idiots are giving these gifts to their significant others. As a non-idiot, I had gifts for Jill, and since Tuesdays are the one day a week we have off together, we were fortunate enough to spend the entire day together, so we went out for a lunch date and a movie.
Surprisingly, Jill had a gift for me. And it was one of the coolest gifts I've ever received. She gave me a box, decorated with a few pictures of us, and filled with little slips of paper. Upon each slip was written something that she loved about me (or our relationship together). Simple, sincere and wonderful. For those of you who know Jill, you know that she is not the most sentimental person ever (and I say that only because it amplifies the expression the meaning of this present), but this was truly a gift given with great thought, care and love. Incredibly heartwarming.
I've decided to read one slip a day. The first one was about our shared loved of soft pretzels, which are ridiculously delicious. Yesterday's was about how I let Jill have the remote [This isn't out of magnanimity on my part- Jill simply won't watch most of the stuff I like, so if we're going to watch TV together, it's usually something that makes me want to punch myself in the eye (love you, dear!)].
Today's was about how much she loves my hope for a better world.
After two rather light-hearted things, this one hit me powerfully. I do love soft pretzels, and I do generally let her control the remote, but the fact that I do hope for a better world is kind of at the core of who I, on my best days, consider myself to be. And I really want to thank her for reminding me of this fact.
I don't get overly "religious" on this blog often. For those of you who might read this blog regularly but don't care for Christians/Christianity (because you're tired of obnoxious Bible-thumpers who want to shove it down your throat, or because you find it irrelevant or illogical or just simply something you can't buy into), I hope you won't skip out now, because I think what I'm about to say might still resonate with you.
I do hope for a better world. Hope is a powerful thing. It is central to how I understand Christianity, and my role as a follower of Jesus. Anyone can look around today and see that things are broken, skewed, screwed up; choose your word of choice here. Our situation is untenable long term. We have people starving to death while billionaires wipe their butts with hundred dollar bills. We have religious leaders building cults based on fear, guilt, hate. We have politicians bought and paid for by corporations. Our society has become so fractured and argumentative that we can't even talk to each other constructively. We cannot disagree civilly, in any arena. Instead we yell platitudes at each other, talking points (or even scripture passages?) lobbed back and forth at increasingly louder volumes in an attempt to destroy the other. We have corrupt political systems, destructive economic systems, and manipulative religious systems (including many versions of Christianity, admittedly).
This is broken.
This is foolish.
This is demoralizing.
But this is not the end.
What is is not what has to be. We don't have to live like this. We don't have to live in a broken system. I don't claim to have all the answers, a plan to solve all of this. I know better than that. But I know that we have the capacity for change. We have the ability to fix this. My understanding of how to fix it is drawn in large part from the teaching and example of Jesus, but I'm guessing that the staunchest atheist one might meet could arrive at similar conclusions without drawing from the same wisdom.
It starts with hope.
Hope for something better. For a world where there is enough for everyone's needs. Where people have fresh water, food in their stomachs, roofs over their heads. Where people are valued for their unique gifts, personalities, passions. Where we can actually stand to be in the same room with people with whom we disagree. Where people from diverse backgrounds, races, political parties can coexist. Where people can feel whole and loved.
I don't know about you, but that starts to sound a little like the Kingdom about which Jesus spoke. The Kingdom he prayed to see here on earth. The Kingdom.
One of my favorite bands of all time, Five Iron Frenzy, has recently decided to get back together, and they released a song called "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night." Part of the song says "I've been waiting, in halfhearted sleep, for a promise I half meant to keep. Just for hoping that hope still flies, wipe the sleep out of our sleeping eyes. And hope still flies.."
I'm hoping that we will wake from our halfhearted sleep. That we will wake and see that there is hope for something brighter, something better.What is is not what has to be.
Grace and Peace...
PS: If you want to hear more Five Iron or learn more about the band, as well as download "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" for free, check out Five Iron Frenzy.