In a year where everything is a mess I figured it would be a good idea to close out my 2020 blog by stepping back and identifying things which I appreciate. I’m not just thankful for the things I identify below, I have an admiration and/or affection for what’s listed below which cuts to the core of who I am. For me, it’s thankfulness on a deeper level.
I’ve written many times on the value I place on friendships. I cherish friendships, even if I’m only capable of juggling a few very close friends at any given time. Because of my personality type, my friends tend to be oddballs–people who are not only geeky, but are also able to make poignant connections between concepts which seem to have zero in common. A lot of them tend to be creative-types. I’ve got friends in a wide array of social circles–and I connect with them through a variety of avenues. I don’t make friends easily 1, but when someone becomes a friend it’s a difficult bond to break. Distance, and even seasons where connections are few and far between, does not break that tie for me.
I love questions–both asking them and pondering them.. Give me a question to ponder, on a topic which holds my interest–like history, sci-fi/fantasy, theology, computers, or photography–and I’ll chew on it with a deep and satisfying joy. Give me people with whom I can work out my reflections on a question and my soul ignites. I love pondering, and I adore the give and take of pondering something with my friends.
This can get me into trouble in circles where questions are seen as an attack on stability 2. To me, pondering or posing a question isn’t an assault on “normal,” it’s an invitation to become better reflections of who or what we say we are.
This ties into my appreciation for questions, but being afforded an opportunity to share some of my reflections on a topic is always an honor for me. If given the opportunity I’ll spend months framing a conversation which can invite people to their own explorations of the topic at hand. Now I can sometimes frustrate organizations because I tend to want months to create something worthwhile for folks, and institution tend to want something for next Tuesday, but I love the entire process.
I just need to take a days-long nap afterward.
I’m a pastor, so I suppose I’m contractually obligated to list this, but I do appreciate faith. I also tend to recognize when people don’t actually have faith, but rather possess an abundant desperation for certitude .
People who are so insecure they feel threatened by anything different from what they believe don’t have faith. They are desperate to hold on to the absolute conviction their current beliefs are correct–and evidence which contradicts this conviction must be jettisoned or attacked until it goes away. The Trump cult is an easy example of this in our current climate, but this longing for certitude exists in some ways in all communities as far I can tell. Sometimes it’s benign, like the certitude that Philadelphia-born Cowboys fans are frauds. Other times it can be cause for concern, like when people show up at a convention wearing two different eras of Star Trek uniforms and immediately view the other with mistrust. And sometimes it’s dangerous, as when two political parties polarize themselves so perfectly they can only see the other one as an enemy of all that is good or when religious sects go out of their way to make life miserable for all others.
But faith looks for possibilities beyond certitude. It opens people up to exploring the well of their religious upbringing. It invites them to stretch their limits physically, mentally, or socially–taking chances because they feel it’s a needed step. Faith helps people open the door to forgiveness, and also allows folks to recognize their own failings. Faith generates humility–before other people, before ones own beliefs, and in the case of religious faith before ones creator. And faith is able to accept pain, and use it to generate empathy. Faith is beautiful, certitude is ugly.
I just wish people, and Christians in particular, would stop confusing the two.
I grew up in a big extended family and, even though I’m the outlier in terms of personality and convictions, it taught me a great deal about the power and need for familiar connections. To me family are those you celebrate with, the first with whom you share your grief, and the ones you want around when important milestones happen. Being family is the deepest heart of friendship.
My immediate family is more important to me than I can express, and my extended biological family also remains important to me. But our “fictive kin,” honorary aunts and uncles and cousins that my immediate family has embraced, are some of my most cherished relationships.
Happy New Year
I hope 2021 brings an end to this stupid pandemic, and the things you appreciate give you paths on which to travel in post-covid world!