I was in the kitchen making dinner when my grandmother called.
There’s a mob on the TV… she said, But that’s aways from here isn’t it?
Yes that’s aways from here.
I was comforted by her. She’s lived through so much. Mobs come, mobs go. Should this one concern her? No, it shouldn’t. It doesn’t. Then she talked about the tree limb that fell on the fence and what she had for dinner and how she used to make the best beef stew. Then she remembered Joyce Paulk, her neighbor when they lived in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, who made the best Brunswick stew and who now lives in a nursing home in Georgia, who still sends us all birthday cards and twenty-dollar bills every year, who we send packages to often, as she is in lockdown and lonely.
My grandmother lived through the great-depression, but this did not concern her either. She had a happy childhood filled with music and cowboys and horses and brothers. Her troubles were the death of her good friend, who died of tetanus from barbed wire and the death of her younger brother, who bled out in her mother’s arms on the way to the hospital. These things came to her and hurt and changed her. The crash of the stock market? It was merely an event that marked her time.
I hope most of the children of this generation will remember the pandemic and political mess in the same way. I know that children do not concern themselves with what does not concern them, and although it might seem too simplistic I’m beginning to believe this is what God would want from me.
He spent most of my roaring twenties remaking my hunger for glory. Teaching me blessed are the unambitious. Now I am learning that not only am I small, but that I am called to seek the small, which is all I can do really, or all I can do well. I am not omnipresent or omniscient or omnipotent. Not by a long shot. And when I try to be more than I am I end up slumming in subhuman ways as Chad Bird says.
When my grandfather would see me brow furrowed, disturbed, he would say, Hey, don’t worry about the mule being blind, just load the wagon. This was mostly silly and a way to make me take myself less serious, but he also meant by this, just do what you’re supposed to do, kid.
So it turns out God does not require me to know what’s going on in Washington, DC. He does not require me to hold a strong political opinion or knowledge about current affairs or even read the news. He does not require me to trust or endlessly seek out or particularly give a rip for any great person’s learned opinion on the myriad of anxieties that churn the internet. He does not require me to give lip in a public forum. He does not even require me to vote. He does not require from me any burden that he has not himself laid on me in his Word.
But what he does require from me there is a heap. A gracious plenty. A lifetime spent, given away, used up, kaput. A life patterned after his.
My husband and I are going to have a baby, Lord willing, in the summer. Well we have a baby already don’t we? But right now that child is being kept in a very special way, and it’s a comfort to know he or she is safe from me, for the time. Safe from my failures. But soon that will not be the case. What do I want my child to have? The answer has come back by different roads: Peace. Peace of heart. Peace of conscience. Peace with neighbors. Peace with God. Peace in, what looks like, troubled times.
Much of this will be out of my hands. But a mother does impact the peace of her baby’s heart, I think, in many ways, and so how do I become less anxious? It is a sweet riddle to know that I must become more like a child.
Children cannot help the grief that’s laid before them, but neither do they thirst for a knowledge of evil that is beyond them. Children mind their own business. They do. They love their places. They make house. They care about the opinions of those blundering hairy old souls around them, even though they are nobodies. They don’t know who’s a nobody.
And so in the start of this new year, I asked myself questions concerning local faithfulness. I thought they might be helpful to you too. I want to make it very clear that I do not bring them as that person who loves to bring a question to which he already has a well-formulated answer, but rather as an honest searching out of myself. How well am I really loading the wagon? Not so hot most days. I’m sure there are many more questions to be asked, and maybe you can see some blind spot of mine here…. Rejoice they are not yours! These are not meant to be lived out all at once or independently of others. They are not meant to imply that we should not support foreign missions or care very deeply for the persecuted church or that is is wrong to be very political or that God does not have a redemptive plan for the nations. I could think of more caveats, but thankfully my readers have never required that from me. This is simply a practical working out in my own life of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
The emphasis on food may be because I have been incessantly hungry.
These are difficult times. I have heard more than one woman say they do not think it wise to bring a child into the world right now. And certainly I would not create a beautiful fragile human and deliver them to the media or the steps of the oval office. But God creates, thank goodness, and delivers humans unto trembling, confessing, able parents and gives us all tender hearts with a hole the size of his own self and then he promises to come and make his home there forever and ever, there in that little bitty heart he loves, if we will trust him.
And so I think it is always a good time to be born, because there is always, always, hope.
And so here are the questions, dear reader. They are for me and maybe for you, if you will have them:
Have I made the place I live a more beautiful, productive, homelike place?
Do I know the plants and native animals around me?
Am I familiar with the lakes, rivers and creeks?
Do I know the history of the place?
Do I have enough food to feed my household without going to the store for awhile?
Do I have enough food to share with my neighbors?
Do I know my neighbors? Do I take them gifts of food? Is my home open to them?
Do my neighbors have my number and know they can call on me to help them?
Do I know the local poor?
Do I know the local widows?
If there are local farmers, do I know them and support them?
If I have enough land to grow or raise my own food and food to share, am I doing so?
If able to do so, do I choose and support small local businesses?
Do I have more or as many local friendships than long-distance or internet-based ones?
Do I do anything that frustrates my neighbors?
Do I participate in the life of my local church?
Do I ever behave rudely or self-seeking to those around me?
Is there an abortion mill close by? Can I minister there or support those who do?
Is there a nursing home close by? Can I minister there or support those who do?
Is there a prison close by? Can I minister there or support those who do?
Do I enter the home of the sick or chronically ill? Do I bring them gifts of food or send notes of encouragement?
Do I make myself open to the children God would give me?
Do I make an effort to give whatever skills or gifts I have to my community?
Do I look around and notice what is happening around me?
Am I prepared to respond in an emergency?
Do I quickly respond to anyone in my local community who reaches out or asks for my help?
Do the opinions of those I know personally matter more to me than than the opinions of those I don’t? Or am I a long-distance hero-worshipper and a short-distance critic?
Do I remember and honor and forgive my parents?
Do I make an effort to actually physically care for my parents or grandparents? If I am long distance from them do I frequently call, send notes and gifts of food? If I am close by do I visit them often and meet any needs they may have?
Do I remember my family stories? Have I asked my parents, grandparents good questions about their lives?
If I am married, do I do all the same for my husbands family?
Do I remember and show love to my siblings?
Do I pray for my enemies and those who hate me?
Do I see the world around me as the main theatre of my life, the focus of my thoughts, words and duties?
Am I at rest with being as unseen as an unborn child?
Am I at peace?