Yesterday morning I lead a small group eleven adults in a discussion reflecting on the Nooma video Today where Rob Bell spoke simply of the need to fully let go of the past in order to fully embrace Today.
In a short little description about Today, Bell offers us this:
How much time and energy do we spend wishing things were how they used to be? We often think about times in our past when things were different and want our lives to be like that again. Some of us have even come to believe that our best days may actually be behind us. But if we’re in some way hung up on the past, what does that mean for our lives now? How are we and those around us affected if we’re not fully present? If we’re longing for the way things used to be, what does that really say about our understanding and appreciation of our lives today? Maybe we need to learn to embrace our past for what it is, in order to live our lives to the fullest, right here, right now.
How much time do I spend in the past?
Answer: A lot.
I spend a lot of time thinking of the past.
I spend hours remembering my day-to-day living in Hermosa, Chicago with our community. Alive, fully.
I have spent days back in the open kitchen of the Ashram remembering hours spent peeling garlic cloves, drinking chai, if only in my memory.
I can’t stop thinking about many of clients over the years, lives immersed with addictions.
Or those children. Children of immigrant or refugee families.
Both a conscious and unconscious density these moments of remembering hold over me, hold on to me.
I’m coming to understand that these reflections of the past, what was, weigh so heavily in my everyday because when I was there, living in Hermosa, the Ashram, working as an addiction counselor or with children who were non-native English speakers, I was fully present.
I was taking up the causes of my community. Protesting funding cuts for the Chicago Transit Authority, picking up broken liquor bottles from the sidewalk, slicing cabbage for hours, serving tea to over 50 destitute men, women and children each day. I was knee deep in stories of pain, shame and healing. Embraced by an average of 61 beautiful children five evenings a week, 40 weeks out of the year.
I was fully present. What concerned my neighbors, patients, clients, students, concerned me.
In carrying the weight of what affected them in their day to day lives, I was affected and that protest, joy, pain, awareness has remained.
Today, though, I just nursed Sweet Basil and changed an early morning diaper.
Today I will seed carrots and radishes, kale and parsnips in our garden.
Today I will take a meal to a family who attends our church and recently lost their one year old daughter to cancer.
Today I will babysit our neighbors son while they go out on one last date before child number two is welcomed late May.
Today I will meet with a group of women to talk about God and shame and vulnerability.
Today I will make my communities concerns my own because I’m coming to find that this is truly the only way to be fully present today.
Today I will also summon up the internal courage to support my church in their efforts to raise one million dollars for the rebuild of our current physical church structure.
One Millions Dollars.
I still cannot fathom this amount of cash.
I cannot stop dreaming of better ways one million dollars could be utilized. More often than not a voice screams in my mind and a loud roar burns in my heart of injustice! How could a church spend such a significant amount of money on a building of worship where we continually seek to learn how to better love the poor, give generously to others and live humbly in our lives with Christ.
Still, we’re choosing to raise and spend one million dollars on the rebuild of our building.
Yes, I could tell you that there was a two million dollar rebuild offer and our church voted on the latter. Yes, I could speak to the historical nature of the church tower and how important this building is to preserve. I could also point to the numerous safety concerns currently present with the current state of our building, warranting a rebuild.
Although these things are true, they don’t do it for me. I still can’t reconcile spending this amount of money on bricks and mortar.
I’m coming to find that these reasons for rebuilding our church don’t do it for me because my mind and my heart are not fully present here. They are still in Chicago, over seas, with those struggling with addiction and children learning to speak English.
No longer do we live in Chicago, though. Traveling overseas, simply a hope for what may come. Daily interaction with those struggling with an addiction very limited and time spent with immigrant or refugee families – nil.
We live in Grand Rapids. Our travels consisting of a two hour trip to the northern shores of Lake Michigan. Daily interaction include neighbors and friends, many white and middle-class.
This is my Today.
Today my church, our spiritual community since we arrived to Grand Rapids close to two years ago, is seeking support for a one million dollar campaign to build a building and I can’t help but think, what if I made this one concern of my church family my own?
What if today I put aside my pride, my past, my ideals, my long-standing beliefs that love for the poor comes above all else and took up the cause of our current spiritual community?
What would happen?
In Today Bell encouraged me to grieve if I need to grieve, celebrate if I need to celebrate, do something to make peace with how it was, but then move on. Don’t let despair set in believing that things were better back then.
Therefore, as I once marched in protest of the CTA, peeled garlic for hours in the open sun, listened to the stories of those riddled with addiction and laughed with children who often mistook “but” for “butt”, I will take on the cause of my spiritual community of today and support, ever painfully and ever reluctantly, our one million dollar building campaign.