The afternoon I took this picture, Dave was already in Michigan, where it was written “there be monsters” on the map.
I stayed behind for a bit because we had the house to sell, and I had a paycheck there, and that paycheck was something we needed, or thought we did. (I’ll stop talking about this one day, I promise.) I’ve gone through my archives Friday night, just for fun, and happily the scars have healed. It’s two years later, you know, and I’m nothing but enamored with moving forward.
One of my dear friends repeated to me “remember you’re on your way home, even if it doesn’t feel like it.”
— Me. That still makes me cry.
I took this picture that same day my friend told me that. It all hurt. It was all too much. The view’s from our old deck; that’s the telephone wire that ran to right under the baby’s room. I’d just let the dog out.
I had no idea how God wasn’t really taking away, but giving. Always, more giving; always what we need.
Justice was on my mind last week, and how bad I feel I am at it.
I’m of the mind that if I keep doing the next right thing and the next right thing; if I keep choosing to love, if I keep choosing small things and choosing to be present with those around me, I can be just. But then I had jury duty, and I realize my “hugger” model works well as a method for living in the world, but not around a table with 11 others who think the panhandler stole something. Dammit.
I was juror No. 1 in a case Monday. In the never-ending saga of Erin taking herself too seriously, I spent the next five days feeling that I’d let someone down because of the guilty verdict. Ack. You know, by the time we got the case, the injustice had long been in motion, and when I feel that hopelessness, I want to take my rag in there and clean it all up, only instead I just removed the “Juror” sticker from my sweater and went home to my woods.
Justice is close to God’s heart, and don’t I know it; I’ve just read a Ronald Sider book that had me up past midnight thinking about it: “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.” God is just, and sometimes the fair-trade chocolate and second-hand-clothing consumer, even the volunteer in me thinks small justice in my moment to moment is pretty attainable — but the bigger justice? The kind we publicly support, the kind that has us volunteer in places with people who maybe panhandled yesterday, the kind that gives me an existential crisis each time I need to buy a pair of shoes and want to know “Who made the shoes?” — that’s not jury-duty kind of justice.
That big American justice is broken. The kind of knowledge about God’s perfect justice and this kind of heart that carries that verdict all the way into Friday is really a gift, but it doesn’t feel like it, and I’m not sure I expected this when I left Oshkosh — I certainly didn’t choose jury duty. But we chose Team Underdog, Team Justice by intending to stay home and give ourselves. Monday reminded me how small our next right things are, though, and how many others will have to join our small network of next right things to make a ripple. The two years since Oshkosh have softened me for this. Michigan’s made me softer.
So, community, then: the kind that helps us along toward a living justice. I think that’s it: that since it’s so broken, I want to be part of a community that’s farther out in front. We won’t stop people from stealing stuff, but … God knows the courthouse is too late.
Maybe what would surprise me about the last two years is, well, God.
Yes, the same God who whispered “Michigan”: the same God who led me to the books and people to change our course. The same God who takes a nebulous fear and turns it into something beautiful; Who said, when we were looking for a church, “This one;” Who said “Stay” when we wanted to keep looking; Who led me to the women who told this bird, “Settle here. It’ll be great.” We talk and laugh. Someday one of us’ll probably cry, too, because I tend to make people do that, and people make me do that.
That’ll be just full circle. That’s when I’ll know I’m really in Michigan.
But these people — they’re the community I prayed for. They’re also bigger than I’d hoped for; they’re people I can talk about families, books, God, sewing, faith, new monasticism — even birds. And Oshkosh still is, too. We’re all, on both sides of Lake Michigan, into sharing a good God-did-this-for-me story, the kind of a big bill paid by strangers; the kind of new babies, the kind of new dreams, and old stories laid to rest.
I love those quick stories of God doing something to a specific prayer — and what I’m beginning to understand about Michigan is, it’s not one quick answer to a prayer. It’s the gentle unfolding of so many, and too much.
And as I’m standing too close, still, I won’t remark on the totality of an arc that’ll keep on growing so long as daily we’re saying yes to God and this place.
But I will say, I wrote this two years ago, about leaving our church.
… now I have to leave … I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to do it alone yet; I’m little wobbly. But I think God loves a wobbler.
And Friday, in a diner, I signed a contract with a friend to co-write a book about faith, and I’m just wondering if maybe the yeses we give God are answered slowly sometimes because God says “Wait for it — wait for it — and — Now. Now.“
This wobbler is going to write.