standing somewhere

(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.

people in 2 lines standing apartThis 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.

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7 thoughts on “standing somewhere

  1. **sigh**

    Perspective means so much. I have always identified with the dogs who get the crumbs that fall from the table. Even within TEC, it is the educated, the monied, the intellectual who sit at the table, enjoying one another’s company, making plans to include the marginalized, dreaming of outreaches to and for, but seldom of and with.

    When my discernment committee joyfully agreed that I was called to the diaconate, my priest recommended that I go to CDSP. Fly up every weekend! Yes, I could do that… As soon as I figured out whether the electric bill or the car note would get paid this month. Ten years later, I still sit beneath the table.

    When the bishop comes to visit our poor little bilingual mission church, she preaches in English to or at a group of mostly undereducated, unsophisticated poor people, using words and references so esoteric that no one understands her message, or even if she actually had a message. We sit beneath the table.

    we try to use our gifts and talents, but are micromanaged to death, to powerlessness and hopelessness, because we might be too something, or not get it right, or not fit into someone else’s vision of what the church should be. We sit beneath the table.

    Oh please! Keep those crumbs coming, for they are all we have.

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  2. Oh, Sandy, crumbs…we pray continue to fall, BUT it is only, I think, I believe, when those who sit at table do more than acknowledge the constant, indiscriminate work of gravity (that pulls the crumbs to the floor), but also become aware that we, at table, are never as neat as we think we are (thus, crumbs always fall) and in that consciousness recognize the essentiality of inviting ALL to dine at table…only then will love and justice be the main course and not an aperitif or digestif. Much love

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  3. Paul,

    Another thought-provoking piece! I had written a long piece about an hour ago, and as I hit submit, it disappeared without posting. There’s no way I can totally capture my original post, but I’ll share a couple of things I had written.

    I find that the older I get, the more I find my self standing in a different place after a period of time than the place I started from. I think that’s a great thing! I have always been able to go “across the aisle” willingly, but that’s typically because I try to avoid “conflict”. What I now try to do, is to continue to go across the aisle, but now it’s more to understand how and why the person’s position is different from mine… and what that means for us in relationship.

    I truly want to reach out as much as I can and to as many people as I can, as I too NEED and WANT human connection and communication. It’s pretty lonely without it… There’s truly a lot to be said for those crumbs under the table.

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    • Hmmm, Loretta, your image, for me, of going across the aisle willingly to avoid conflict (in distinction from crossing the aisle in the face of conflict) intrigues me. You’ve offered a perspective to me that I’d not envisioned or conceptualized. Perhaps where I’m taken (indeed, captivated) by your image is that I desire to avoid conflict, so when it arises, I willingly cross the aisle (to engage with the one with whom I am in conflict) so to alleviate, if not ameliorate our discord. I like that!

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  4. Such powerful,wise, and true words, both in your post and in your reply to Sandy. You can’t know how much your words speak to a current situation in my family. How hard it is when those who are kin label their own as other. Right now, crumbs from the table might be our only hope for continued communion. Your post gives me a new perspective (that vision thing!) that will help me metaphorically reach across the aisle. Thank you.

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  5. Caroline, how it tears at my heart to hear of your family situation. I pray the solace and strength of openness to possibility for all. One thing that I attempt (and admittedly fail enough to do) is to hold in conscious thought that whatever truth I believe I hold, I don’t and never can have it all. Thus, you, even and especially when your set of beliefs are counter to mine, you have an element of the truth I need. Even harboring this hope, I find it difficult in conflict to see always what it is you may have that I need, but I’ve also discovered that when I keep at the search, the hunt, indeed, nurture my hunger to know, the Spirit opens my eyes to one of those “aha” moments! Much love

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  6. Paul,
    You’re Intrigued by something I wrote? Wow….. One of the things that I love about blogging is that both the writer and the reader can cause the other to think about different perspectives!! I especially love your blog because it always cause me to think, A LOT! And that’s a good thing!

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