Intersections and Bright Orange Vests Part II

26 08 2010

Along highway 15-501, you’ll find great stories and meaningful lessons, all by watching people – the begging people. Their actions, clothes, bodies, hair, stations and signs tell a story. Granted, a lot of people don’t believe that story and suggest that they are misleading, living a comfortable lifestyle amongst their friends creating a business of begging, but I beg to differ.

I don’t disagree that they may have another concealed life, but I do disagree that their lifestyle is comfortable. I can’t imagine begging as a comfortable practice or business venture. I can’t imagine what is so relaxing about degrading oneself day after day to get a dollar, or even a few coins. Being on the underside of the economy is uncomfortable. It is humiliating. It is distant. It does not even require contact. Begging is a lonely business, a disconcerting effort to survive and live wrapped up in looks of disdain and harsh glares from passersby’s.

And the beggar’s overall invisibility and one-dimensionalism  is strangely a survival mechanism. Smile your toothless grin, say “God bless” and continue doing the dance of “I need your money, please help me.” That is surely humiliating.   

I was at the light in the third lane over frantically searching for a dollar from my change compartment hoping that I would have enough time to signal him over to get whatever I had on me, but the light changed suddenly and slowly traffic was resuming.

Knowing it was too dangerous to pull the stunt of holding up traffic and ask him to dance across two lanes of fast-moving traffic; I replaced the dollar hoping for another opportunity later. What I looked up, he was gone. A second later he stood up as he now stood erect from the crouched position he had when he was previously picking something up. Dangerously close to breaking the median-lane barrier, he stood staring at whatever it was in his hand. It was a dollar bill. He stood looking at the bill for what seemed like eternity. He was in disbelief.  

Suddenly his stare changed from the bill to the car the bill had come from, a silver car speeding hurriedly to its’ next destination. He stood staring.

I could feel his hurt all the way from my car, and he hurt badly. He wasn’t even human enough, worthy enough, visible enough to have a dollar bill placed in his hand.

The ground was more respectable.

What would or should have my Gospel, our Gospel have done?

I’m still working on it but I used to get very, very upset when people didn’t call or text me back.

28 06 2010

I’m still working on it but I used to very, very upset when people didn’t call or text me back. And not just any people, but the people who were supposed to be important in my life. I felt that the people who were supposed to be there for me just weren’t.

So I thought it legitimate to blame it on technology.

Facebook and cell phones are evil, I used to muse. If I didn’t have a cell phone and they didn’t have a cell phone I’d be perfectly content on waiting to ask them what I must via letter or whenever I would see them next. It wouldn’t be a problem, but the urgency of technology has created a problem persona within me. At least that’s what I used to tell myself, until I recognized that there are some controlling aspects of me that I need to work on now rather than later. And that there is this deep tendency in me to take things personally that, even if they are meant personally, like not answering a text message until a week later, I still have control of my feelings and not control over other people’s actions.

And it’s time to stop blaming technology. I know a lot of people have this trend where they speak badly against technology because it has created the falsity of instant relationships, communication and contact; and I agree with that to an extent, but after a while we must admit that this technology-affects-relationships debate matters to us so much because we were overeager and fell head over heels in love with it. We overdosed on its drug-like affects of euphoric communicative abilities and now want the drug abolished, but it doesn’t work like that. It took too long to get the drug legalized.

What does work is reflecting on why I may need to talk to “so and so” so badly. I have to face it; technology will keep evolving and be around long after I’m gone. I can’t control that; but I can control myself and who I allow into my life and inner circle.

A lot of the times, I reflect on the prophets and how some, especially Jeremiah weren’t feeling God’s communication back to them. They talked constantly and let God be the center of their life and didn’t feel like they were receiving the same effort from God.

Now, I know my friends are not nor will they ever equate to God, but perhaps the correlation between the prophets and I is the “I”. Maybe the common denominator is the person who feels hurt whether the anticipated communicator is a good or bad friend, or God. Perhaps the most impactful part of the lesson of non-communication is that the party with all the expectation sees something in that relationship worth being upset for or they don’t.

I have a hand in determining my mood. If I don’t like a class, I can drop it. If I am not connecting with a church body, there are others out there, one that could fit me best, but I must do the leaving and cleaving. Technology is not to blame. Even my non-communicative friends are not to blame. I have the choice or who is allowed in my life and in that choice, I can evaluate where I am (if I’m too needy or not, or if I am justified in expecting a certain level of communication from someone in my life).

It’s not a technological debate. It’s a personality issue, whether it’s mine or the said person in question. For the prophets it was not God. God was God and could do what God wanted or did not want to do. Hmmm, I guess we humans can do what we want to do too. Including evaluating what’s most important to us and what we must change or adjust in order to lead peaceful lives.

I know nothing about chess but I know the pawns are seen as the most insignificant piece.

26 06 2010

I know nothing about chess but I know the pawns are seen as the most insignificant piece.

I understand they are taken first, used to protect and strategize…

Yup, “used” is the word. Pawns are used. They are the little guys(and girls). Their purpose is to propel the King or Queen or whoever to victory… to that “Check mate!” moment.

It got me thinking. How many of us are pawns? How many of us Dukeified, community-talking, justice-preaching Christians who are supposed to be somebody, just pawns? How many of us who are supposed to make it make it only so far? How many of us are supposed to do something great with our lives but are simply pawns? How many of us are only in the game for the betterment and victory of someone else?

Kind of depressing isn’t it? It’s depressing not because we readily jump in and volunteer ourselves to be the pawn, but because the closest answer that reflects the truth in our rapidly beating hearts and hot faces (as we read this post) is: “I don’t know.”

 And it’s true. We don’t know.

Many of us are saying “I don’t know” because we’re afraid that the answer could very well be “Yes, I am a pawn.”

We afraid that our role is strategic not victorious. Our lives and ministries and study and passion could simply be a stepping stone for someone else to achieve greatness. And it hurts when we have to face this realization.

Let’s broaden the picture a bit. Who else can be a pawn? Anyone in time can be one. Time oftentimes benefits those who come last (kind of the like the King or Queen piece) not first (the pawn). Frankly, the pawn gets played (pun intended).

A doctor who discovers something that helps a counterpart 100 years down the line can be seen as a pawn. A stay-at-home mother can be a pawn to her child doing better and bigger than she is currently doing. A workaholic father who makes the money but isn’t happy with where he thought he would be by this time is a pawn of motivation for his daughter to be a lawyer (because for some reason society doesn’t assume those with high salaries can be pawns if though they very well may be). Pawns can be rich or poor, but they share the same place in history – they are a means to get to a destination that they don’t get themselves (eh hem, Moses anyone?)

What’s your point Tomi?

My point is this: At the end of the game, even though the King or Queen (this sadly signals my lack of knowledge with chess) is still standing and seemingly victorious, they are not the only victorious pieces. Even though the pawns, rooks, knights and bishops have all been captured, when the game is over, all the pieces are on the winning team. The King or Queen didn’t win on their own. The player won will all the pieces. And it was by the skill, precision and thoughtfulness to assign certain purpose to certain pieces that the game was won. Usedness (I definitely just made up that word) can be part of the strategy.

There were some pawns in the Old Testament too! Jacob’s brother Esau could be seen as a pawn. He was seemingly bypassed so that Jacob, heralded as the youngest son, could be the blessed one. Zilpah and Bilhah were seen as pawns. They bore Jacob sons because of this strange birthing-sons competition between Leah and Rachel. Joseph’s brothers (some second generation pawns) existed so that their lives could be a foil to Joseph’s life. And this is only in the Jacob’s lineage! (And if we think about it, Jacob was a pawn to Laban…)

In order for one to be great, many have to mediocre.

 But even in what seems mediocre, reconciliation can exist!

 For some reason, God doesn’t simply allow His children to be used and thrown away, but their lives are assigned purpose and their purpose is redeemed more fully in God’s timing. Redemption and reconciliation existed and lived where it wasn’t expected to. Esau was reunited with his brother, and even though selling his birthright didn’t eliminate consequence, he still had a moment of peace, love and redemption with his brother. Zilpah and Bilhah (although fulfilling sexist and patriarchal-dominated roles in their societal time) bore sons, the highest honor in child-bearing. Joseph’s brothers reaped consequences for their sins, but in a moment of mercy (mixed with insanity and a wave of emotional and psychological confusion and torment [I personally believe via Joseph’s back and forth actions]) were saved by their brother who reveals himself to them later.

All these pawns leading seemingly mediocre lives still see God’s hand in their lives. Their pawn-ness isn’t a status of manipulative use, but it is one of purpose and life that God has a hand in. It isn’t as great as what they probably imagined their lives could be, but it’s real.

They lead normal lives (well as normal as it can be) and their glory comes in small moments.

The unknown doctor knows he had a hand in medical history and the betterment of physical bodies. The stay-at-home mother knows that her hard work as a mother has installed values and principles in her child that will help their mission in the world matter because of the character of who it’s coming from. The overworked father knows that his life and the love for his family has made his children’s lives a little easier as opposed to them growing up in other conditions.

The pawn’s moves matter because they are the stage on which greatness is performed and holiness can be perfected. Pawns matter because God is using them. Their capture may look like middle class life with kids and a dog instead of a Manhattan penthouse. Their moves may endanger the four-car dream uncovering a two-Corolla reality. Their strategic placement may mean a life of ministry where effort is underpaid, prayers feel futile, hard work is more imagined than enacted and church is more a miracle than a mainstay. But they are a part of the game; and even if they don’t win on the chessboard, they are still a part of the winning team, yes, even on the sidelines. Yes, even when they feel captured.

For capturing is sometimes part of the strategy. And strategy makes all the difference. even when we go through most of our lives wondering what God’s strategy is and when this game will be over.

We want our struggles, disappointments, and un-glamorous lives to have meaning. We want it to mean something.

And it will. We just have to wait; God knows what He’s doing. He created this game. Do we believe that?

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