Shannon hung a porch swing for me a few years ago. I read, think and sometimes pray as my right foot keeps the pace slow and steady. Back and forth…back and forth.
Over the years of living in our home we’ve seen the trees grow large and lush. During the summer months I feel tucked away on my swing, hidden by green in a little corner of my world. Sometimes big ideas take shape, sometimes epiphany and revelation. Sometimes I just rehearse things with God that I can’t quite put down yet.
Hidden in the green. In my corner.
I listen to birds and cicadas. The perfect pitch of unchanging. Soothing sounds of unending.
Today I read these words from the The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd: “I’d poured out my sympathy, my prayers, all sorts of pious assurances. Every word seemed trite, like the prattle that went on at my Bible studies. I felt protected behind it.”
Sarah Grimke, a woman raised in the Antebellum South among her slave-holding family, was herself against slavery. She and her sister became famous abolitionists. In this story based on true life events she is writing to a man challenging her religion, her beliefs and her life.
And I can’t read past it because I hear this:
It is not enough to say the right words. To offer the prattle of religion without the living of it.
Recently my oldest daughter and I had a discussion about politics and how to disagree with others. I asked her to always consider what she is trying to accomplish…the point…the endgame. I shared with her how easily we can share strong opinions and judgements while forgetting the point of our faith. We sometimes live hidden by our Bible verses. Tucked in behind our sense of moral superiority. We feel protected by our unified notion of the importance in being right.
But it’s not right.
I feel over-qualified to write this post because I am very opinionated. Always one to stand up for what I believe all of my life. Is there good in it? Sometimes. Is there a lot of pride in it? You bet. As I’ve accumulated my own regrets in life my endgame has shifted. Getting to know people without an agenda is the only way I’ve found to actually get to know them. If getting to know them, becoming a blessing to them, is indeed my goal.
I don’t really care anymore when I meet people what they believe. I know what I believe.
I believe in the life-altering grace and unfailing love of Jesus.
I believe it’s the love of God that draws men and women to repentance.
I believe that kindness sends a mortal blow to the enemy of man’s soul.
I believe that walls come down when our own pride shatters.
I will not live to convince others I am right and they are wrong. I will not wave my banner of piety with one hand and with the other push people away.
No longer my endgame.
Instead I’d like to convince others they are loved by a God who would do anything — did everything — to be with them.
I sway on my swing. And I think about these things.