(I’ve lived in Washington, DC, for 26 years; for the past 16, working three blocks east of that grand citadel, at least, architecturally, of our national legislature. From this vantage, not necessarily advantage point, I’ve been attuned to the über-partisan nature of our political discourse. One unforeseen outcome. I’m more attentive to and reflective about human discord everywhere, in whatever sphere. Today’s musings…)
We who live in time in space enter each day fully accessorized with our individual histories and memories, experiences and frames of reference, ways of perceiving, understanding the world and ourselves. Thus, a quintessential aspect of being someone is the necessity of standing somewhere.
There is joy is this. Each of us, saith the psalmist, is fearfully and wonderfully made. Special in God’s sight. Unique in the world. There may be another like me, but no one is me, but me. So, too, so true for you.
This inherent exclusivity of our individuality means that in standing somewhere, we cannot stand everywhere. In being someone, we cannot be everyone, believing everything, holding every perspective as sacred. And I think that each of us being one in a world of other ones (whether “one” is defined as person, people, community, nation) is at root of much of our conflict, which we concretize, literally and metaphorically, in the walls and barriers we erect for the sake of our comfort, security, and perhaps our integrity, and to assure that the twain of “this one” and “that one,” us and them do not meet (and if so, then not for long).
In my morning’s Bible study, I looked afresh at Jesus, wondering whether he, as we all, was not immune to this congenital human dis-ease.
A Canaanite woman, a Gentile, a non-Jew, begs Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus answers, declaring that his vocation is to his own people. She presses her appeal. He responds, comparing his compliance with her request, tantamount to expanding his mission beyond its intended scope, to taking a child’s food and throwing it to a dog.
None of us, not even Jesus, it appears, is predisposed always to stand with everyone.
Yet if we dare stand in the moment with another, we might discover that where we end is not where we begin; that who we become is other, is more than who we were (which is precisely who we were meant to become – more). So, I think, with Jesus.
The woman, her courage arising from abiding devotion to her child, ventures across the clearly marked cultural line of prejudice, replying with a soul-stirring word of God’s love and justice that speaks eternal truth: “Even dogs eat crumbs that fall from the table.” Jesus, moved by the presence and power of her faith, grants her love’s desire.
I have known myself to be a person of passionately held opinions, for the longest time making it difficult for me, in Capitol Hill idiom, “to reach across the aisle.” Over time, I now perceive that dogs do eat crumbs that fall from the table. Over time, I now believe that those who, in their difference, I, in my ignorance, reckoned beyond me or, in my arrogance, regarded beneath me, are like me, hungering for human connection, human communion. Therefore, I now stand at a place where I want to risk, will and do risk reaching out. And now, after a time, I can’t imagine standing anywhere else.