My dear college roommate lost her grandmother this week. Kimberly’s sweet Monya was 100 years old, and I know both from meeting her several times, and from knowing very well her granddaughter, what a good and lovely life Monya lived. They’ll all gather down south in Georgia today to say goodbye to Monya, and I know it’ll be a time of sharing good memories and knowing how much they are all loved by one another.
A congregation in Pennsylvania lost their pastor this week–unexpectedly and tragically. Brian was most certainly not 100 years old–he was far too young to now be gone and the fact that he and his wife were expecting their first child at his death makes the awfulness of it even more so. Brian and I went to the same seminary and served the same Church. We were peers in ministry and life, and, near as I can tell, had some of the passions and convictions when it came to how it is we love God and follow Jesus. I imagine the gathering to say goodbye to him, to celebrate his life, will be marked with shock and trauma and deep, deep grief.
I did not know either Monya or Brian well at all. The real grief over their passing is not mine–though I am certainly holding in my thoughts this morning those who knew and loved them best. I write about them at all because they are, this morning, on my mind and in my heart: because their lives stood in direct and compassionate opposition to what often dominates social media, the news, our hallway conversations and our public discourse (such as it is).
We have in this life two choices. We can choose to destroy, or we can choose to edify. We can choose to tear down, or we can choose to build up. (Walter Wangerin, Jr. once wrote a gorgeous story about this very thing, and I owe him my thought process/language here).
The world we live is, it often seems, hell-bent on the destruction, the tearing down. Far too often I have been guilty of this. Maybe you have, too. And it seems to me that it is long past time for us to focus on the edifying, the building up of this world and its people. If the friends and families of Brian and Monya are to be believed, they were edifiers, builder-uppers, in a world sorely in need of just those things.
I’m stepping on my own toes, here, knowing that my first tendency when I’m feeling insecure or stressed is to strike out at something or someone else–a situation, an issue, or, at my very worst, a person. And in the end this only results in more brokenness, more heartache. All the way around.
We’re quick to judge and condemn. Slow to listen and understand. Quick to identify as “Not them.” Slow to realize, “We are.”
And in the margins, along the edges, rent deep through the center of our collective hearts sometimes, is, as a result, a universal and abiding ache indicative of our having forgotten what it means to have life together.
We were meant for more than this.
So I’m left wondering where I can be about the task of building up, what redemption might lie in an attempt at edification. For my own life. And for the world.
Meanwhile I’m giving thanks for those–including, I suspect, Monya and Brian–who work every day at building bridges, making peace, and working towards wholeness.