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I was lying in bed last Sunday, scrolling through Facebook, and debating whether to get up and start the day, when I came across a post that catapulted me out of my calm, meditative pre-worship state of mind.
It said something to the effect of: “You can’t vote for (fill in the blank) on Tuesday and sing ‘How I love Jesus’ on Sunday.” Incredulous that someone would suggest that I, or anyone else, might be disqualified from loving Jesus based on a bubble filled in on a ballot earlier that week, I began to prepare my heart and mind for worship with a vigorous round of mental gymnastics that went something like:
1. ) I’ll show them. I’ll respond with a theologically intelligent (but snarky) response that puts that person squarely in her place. Something like, “Oh, I didn’t realize God’s grace is limited to one political viewpoint.”
2.) Okay, maybe I’ll set aside my phone and move on with my morning, but I’ll be sure to stew the entire time I make my coffee and breakfast about a post shared by a distant acquaintance made on a social media platform better suited for sharing family photos and recipes than for meaningful and insightful discourse.
3.) While getting myself ready for church, I’ll only look back at the post three or four more times, each time hoping that someone else may have posted the kind of intelligent snide comment I was hoping to make.
4.) Upon discovering that the only people to comment are those who echo the sentiment with an “Amen,” I’ll make a decision to “snooze” the person, so as not to have to be subjected to any more of her opinions.
5.) Head to church, and while opening my mouth to sing, be confronted with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, my tactic of returning judgment with judgment and condemnation with condemnation could mean that, even if I never made any public statement, my morning mental workout had me drawing the very same lines and spewing the very same vitriol that so offended me earlier.
6.) Humbled, I remember the hardest thing about grace is its audaciousness. I remember that if grace covers me, it also covers everyone else. I also consider, practically, whether scrolling social media is a necessary or healthy part of my Sunday morning routine.
In her memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, Nadia Bolz Weber describes how one of her friends responded to “one of (her) more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions,” by reminding her, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”
I once had a friend point out the bias and cruelty of the headless bodies that are used as stock footage on the news whenever there is a story about obesity— and it makes me think, how often do we pour contempt on the headless people in our own lives? How often do we reduce people to one aspect as we chop off any opportunity to see their faces, learn their experiences, hear their stories, or take into account their complexities? How often do we draw a line based on our own quick judgments?
One of my favorite childhood memories is a book my grandma read to me over and over: This Room is Mine. (My cousin gave me an antique copy of the book for Christmas a few years ago, and it remains one of my favorite gifts.) A story of two feuding sisters who share a room, this book was especially applicable to me because my sister and I shared a room right up until we moved to college, and even then, when we were back for breaks, we’d be there, sharing the same space again.
In the story, the sisters, Chris and Mary, fed up with each other, lay a jump rope down the center of the room, declaring that they will never again cross the line. After splitting up possessions, they even tell each other not to “breathe my air.”
But when Mother bakes cookies, Chris is stuck on her side of the line and can’t go grab one. Left to spend the rest of her life on her side of the room, Chris plays her own elaborate game of mental gymnastics. She imagines putting up a Christmas tree, getting a horse to keep her company, pulling visitors up through the window in a basket, and even having a whole lot of children who are smushed into her small space. But time passes, and eventually, at the offer to pick up that rope and head outside, Chris gives in. She and Mary decide they’d rather jump the rope than use it to divide them forever.
I wonder how often we fall easily into the role of Chris. Drawing lines can be seductive, and with little thought, we can find ourselves with our arms crossed, refusing to even breathe someone else’s air. And while being right can feel good for a bit, that kind of pious righteousness comes at a cost, mainly finding ourselves trapped and locked on our own side of the room, unable to recognize all the freedom and energy being wasted.
Meanwhile, Jesus stands on the other side of our imaginary line, laughing, asking us to pick up our ropes, and cross the lines freely. Encouraging us to go outside and play.