Dec 15 2016
My posture is bad, and it’s because of Aleppo.
Every time I try to straighten up, my shoulders hunch forward again a few seconds later, and I want to fall face first onto my desk and quit. Done, please. I’d like to be done with an unkind world that harms the vulnerable. I’d like to create a new one, instead, based on sanctuary and refuge and, damn it, on LOVE; I’m just not sure how to go about it.
Please understand, I’m not saying in any way that my posture matters in comparison with the devastation and despair in Syria. With lives destroyed. With everything undone. With evil running rampant. I’m just saying I’m watching and reading, and I’m caving in on myself, literally. Like my spirit can’t take it, and my body is, like, “RIGHT THERE WITH YOU, SPIRIT. SLOUCHING IN SOLIDARITY.”
We’re in a long, dark night of our collective humanitarian soul, and I feel helpless right now. We’re in the middle of the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever known — a crisis expected to grow — and more countries than ever are closing borders, electing isolationist demagogues (not to call names, but “ISOLATIONIST DEMAGOGUES!”), and pursuing policies that promote fear and xenophobia rather than loving our neighbors as ourselves. Ugh, friends. Ugh, ugh and ugh. Our momrades in Syria and Yemen and South Sudan are living every parent’s worst nightmare, and I’m busy making chicken and rice casserole for dinner and intermittently texting my college student to remind her never to do crack. “NEVER DO CRACK, Abby,” I text, not because I actually think she’ll do it, but because I dreamt she did and blew out a vein, and it’s a totally legit mommy thing to text your kid occasional, out-of-context DO NOT DO CRACK reminders when you’re worried about Aleppo. Right? Right. This makes sense, and I am completely sane.
Dark nights of the collective soul, friends; WE ARE IN THEM. Again. Still. In a world full of disaster and conflict. Suffering and inequity. And so we wait for the dawn. Again. Still. Believing daylight is coming. Or holding that hope for each other when we cannot hold hope for ourselves. Because let’s be honest; sometimes hope is slippery and hard to cling to.
I stole my child’s toy as our Christmas tree topper, several years ago now, and I don’t plan to give it back.
This has nothing to do with Aleppo, but it seems right to put it here, so here it shall go.
It’s strange how traditions begin.
When I was a kid, we always had a drummer boy as our Christmas tree topper. He’s cardboard and cylindrical, possibly made out of a toilet paper tube, and he has a tuft of gold tinsel that flares at his feet. I don’t know his origins; I only know he’s the drummer boy and he ruled from atop our tree for the duration of my childhood, except for the year I found the penis warmer my mom knit my dad when they were newly-weds and replaced the drummer boy for a few weeks ’til Mom figured it out. So she had a few Bible studies at our house while the penis warmer was ensconced up there; no one DIED, Mom.
Despite the fact that Greg and I tried a few angels at the top of our tree, and a star one year, nothing ever really stuck. Nothing was “our thing.” Nothing was the drummer boy. Or the penis warmer.
Until we accidentally stole the lamb.
It was a special gift for our middle child, made from felted wool by one of my besties, Melissa. She made it out of old sweaters the same year she made my twins little stuffed pigs, which are carefully preserved in their room.
I didn’t mean to steal the lamb. I especially didn’t mean to keep it. It’s just that there was a year when the dog absconded with it for the 40th time, and dragged it outside, and punctured its tail, and elongated its neck with all the chewing, and I had enough. Our tree was up. We hadn’t dug to the bottom of the boxes to find the angels. So I snagged that lamb to keep it out of the jaws of the dog, and I placed it on top of the tree and fell in love with it.
Now our Christmas tree topper is a lamb, impaled on a plastic tree.
I dunno. It seems somehow fitting. Not to take an analogy way too far, like I would ever, but do you ever feel like the Lamb of God is being impaled on plastic ideas of Christianity?
And yet, this lamb, which was made with Love from old, recycled garments, sewn by hand, and is beautiful and awkward and punctured and gangly, with its quizzical expression and odd sense of self, somehow gives me strange hope.
Like Love is paying attention to us despite the unseemly plastic all around.
Like what’s Weird and Aware and Authentic will triumph in the end over all the bullshit, theologically speaking, that we subject it to.
Like there’s a live and active Light that’s paying attention in the darkness. And like an Intentional Dawn will overcome the deep night.
Is that too much slippery hope to put into a stuffed toy? Too much slippery hope for an advent season that includes Aleppo?
Maybe it is.
Or maybe we need it more than ever.
Sending love, friends, and waiting with you in the dark for light on the horizon for all people,