Hello, friends! I pray that it is well with your spirit. If you find yourself constantly tired, I pray that you are able to take – make! – time for at least one mini-Sabbath during the day to close your eyes and breathe deeply, remembering that abundant life is not necessarily made up of an abundance of things to do or have. If you feel yourself caught up in the manic rush to get so much done in a day, besides dealing with traffic, meals, and emails, I pray that you know that whatever it is that you’re able to do is enough – you are enough. If you struggle with the changing of seasons, I pray for the peace that surpasses understanding to hold you in the balance of this in-between time.
In a world where it appears to matter what you wear, where you live, and what and who you know, the message we hear and see over and over again is that what we are worth is tied to the worth of what we have and how productive we are. Success is supposed to look like a full calendar and the thinking seems to be that, because we are invested in so many things, we are indeed valuable and necessary to the collectively-perpetuated performance machine.
It seems that our entire system of commerce, education, and lifestyles are geared towards having more and being more. If you are a high schooler in a high achieving school, the dominant narrative is that you should get good grades so that you can go to a good university so that you can get a good job and have a good life. Quality of life is thus inextricably tied to [productivity at] work, which is tied to results in school and college.
As such, so many of our formative years are oriented and calculated around this chosen reality and the desire to fulfill that narrative carries on into our working lives and perhaps beyond. Admittedly, there is merit in gaining knowledge, awareness, and exposure to the world. These words are simply meant to offer the remembrance that our reality, to an extent, is chosen – often in accordance with what others would expect of us. What about what God expects of us – to what extent do you think that what God expects of us aligns with what the world expects of us? I come up with two markedly different tallies. The Sabbath, the loving of our neighbor, the welcoming of the stranger, the liberation of the oppressed – these are examples of things that would not necessarily calculate favorably in terms of one’s own assets.
Perhaps part of our preoccupation with things to do and have is that they offer a distraction from what is beneath the beautiful or, in other words, what is beyond the impression(s) we present. I heard someone say once that she found a church where there was little to no shame. Imagine that, in a church of all places! On a communal level, it is not often, if ever, we find a place where we can feel known on a meaningful level. To feel known among others hopefully translates into being honest with others, and letting others see and hear what is beneath the well-kept exterior. I wonder, what would it take to build a church where there is little to no shame? For sure, it begins with knowing one another. From there, we can begin to be human with each other and build a space where we are honest in our vulnerability, where the façade of what we have and do is meaningless because even without those things, we are enough. You are enough. I am enough. By the grace of God, we are bound to each other in this truth – let’s start building.
Community Engagement update: the Good Neighbor refugee resettlement program is evolving and exploring how we might support resettled families who are already here, as opposed to solely focusing on newly arriving families. Resettled families already here need assistance with many things, including ESL tutoring, financial literacy classes, and homework help for school-aged children and youth. We are now in the process of setting up an orientation and background check system for all who are volunteering with this initiative – if you are not receiving communications from our group and would like to, please let Nadia (firstname.lastname@example.org) know.