“God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new. New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming- never even hoped for- but ends up being what we needed all along.”

(Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint)

I found myself down in San Jose the other day. I was there to investigate a job offer I had received. Amid lunch and some services at the church, my wife and I caught up with Nico, my friend from college who had settled in the area several years ago, over some coffee in a local two-story coffeeshop. As we got caught up with one another, we started reflecting on the directions our lives and work are taking us. And of course, with three humanities majors putting their heads together, it wasn’t long until we started referencing things we had read on our journeys.

At one point in the conversation, we turned to reflect on what denotes progress and why many people are afraid to change. Being Lent, this conversation sparked something in the back of my mind and I readjusted my position to lean in more.

“Part of the issue is that we don’t like to know that we’re wrong.” Nico noted. “It’s embarrassing, for one. And secondly, when we realize and admit that we were wrong, we also have to reckon with any harm that we did leading up to this point.”

“Plus, when we give up power in a situation,” I remarked, searching my mind for an appropriate source, “I think we worry about how those who we’ve wronged might take power to get back at us in revenge. I think… Heidegger…? said something about that in his notion of history.”

Nico nodded.

“I think that’s why it’s important in justice work to follow what was laid out in A Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where King notes a step of self-purification for those seeking justice to take in order to change retributive justice to something more akin to restorative.”

“But,” Nico interjected, “Getting back at the people who have been… jerks, to put it lightly… feels so good in the moment.”

“Of course!” I said, laughing, “That’s why it’s such a pattern.”

Lent is a time to reflect on ourselves. To give up the parts of ourselves that get in the way of relationship with God and our neighbors. And, honestly right now, one of the threads I’ve been returning to time and time again is a tendency that I’ve grown accustomed to (thanks in part to the liturgy of social media algorithms and outrage) that when it comes to people who God loves, there’s a clear us-and-them. Of course, the us and them over the years has changed over time, but the breakdown is the same.

And obviously, I’m on the right side, right?

As I was reflecting and stewing over my tendencies, the wisdom of Nadia Bolz-Weber cut me to the hear in sharing her own experience while listening to her audiobook. In the middle of driving between my two part time jobs one Wednesday, she noted:

“Matthew once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, ‘Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.’ Damn.”[1]

If Lent is all about removing the things that gets in the way of a proper relationship with God and our neighbor, I’m coming to realize that an essential step in my own discipleship in this season is (re?)-learning what it means that God is for all people, not just the people that believe like me, look like me, etc., etc. For some, it’s easy to believe God is on their side, but the reality is, when God loves all people, all means all, y’all. Far be it from me to act as a gatekeeper to God’s grace for others to encounter the Good News- even though, I really, really, want to be.

I am in need of God’s love and grace just as much as the next person.

The Catholic Church has a great synopsis of this reality, where the church is meant to be for all people, letting God sort us out later, where it states:

 “The church has often objected to rigorous currents that, contrary to the gospel exhortation, try to separate the weeds from the wheat in the present (Mt. 13:24-30) in order to set up a Church of the pure. The Church has held on the contrary that baptized sinners belong to the Church and that the Church will be ‘without stain or wrinkle” (Eph 5:27) only at the end of time.”[2]

Instead of starting up a litmus test or witch hunt as to whom measures up to the standards of the church of Timothy Loewen-Elofson, the wisdom of the church is to follow the example of the Triune God, where, while in non-essentials charity, there is a constant dance of moving to make space for others as we also have space made for us.

Perhaps that’s one of the purposes of Lent – to shed all the toxic weight of bias we carry, so that as we look to imagining what the reign of God looks like, we are lightened enough to make space for as many people as possible.

To learn how to lay our weapons down.

To become more attuned to our vulnerability.

To learn what it means to be just a child of God.

Or maybe, I’m wrong. And God willing, others might have enough room for me, too.  

[1]  (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint)

[2] “The Church’s Confession of Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults” (IV.2 p.235)


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