persistent patterns

young girl yelling the final line of a poem

Quiet, quiet, quiet
Quiet as a mouse
I am the quietest
One in the house!

Our old patterns sneak back into our lives with unyielding persistence. We can’t keep them quiet. We don’t even see them coming till they are shrieking in our ears and we find ourselves back in the same old conundrums.

My thoughtful pastor friend is right. We get caught in patterns that once served us well, but are no longer beneficial. Our bodies are tuned to a world where food was scarce, so our food preferences and the range of our hunger exceed our current needs. Our political structures that once bridged the way from autocratic rule to democracy now seem to just get us tangled in plays and counter-plays. We made up rules designed to protect the voices of all the players, but have ended up with a cacophony, where the loudest (monied) voices win.

Yet it is hard to envision any other system, much less to embody one. Some might say that it took moving to a new continent to let democracy take root – and then it only took a partial step – still favoring the old elite, discounting some of its settlers as fractional humans, and ignoring the fact that there were actually individuals who already called this continent home. The founding of the U.S. created a new and revolutionary system, but it seems pretty dysfunctional today. Is there an even better way, a further step? Is our country in a stage of arrested development, as Vincent Harding suggests in an interview with Krista Tippett? Can we still move forward to a ‘more perfect union?’

It is so very hard to live between systems. The one that is currently in power keeps the new one at bay. The sixty’s taught us a bit about that.  It may be true that ‘All you need is love,’  but only if everyone takes on the ethic of love.

Or, perhaps, if at least a critical mass of us could make that move – create a small enclave, a tiny congregation of folks who learned to share what they had, so none had need. A new kingdom come on earth.  Ah, that would be like heaven. Not even, really, a ‘kingdom’ in the ways we usually conceive of them. We would be ruled from within, living by hearts that have been turned from stone to flesh. The lions would not tear at the lambs, nor the snakes inflict their venom on the innocent.

Ah, the dreams of the prophets, the days of the early church. Camelot. Utopia … Jonestown. Promise and danger.

Oh, my. This is all too big for me. Luckily, it is not dependent upon me. Yet … it is not apart from me, either. Can I move change forward, with all its risks, dependent upon a grace that is larger than my errors and larger than the risk itself? It helps that I follow One who has met the worst of it and overcome even death. That gives me a modicum of courage.

What is the next step upon the path of grace? Can I find new patterns for my life, for my community? Can I learn those patterns well enough that they become the ones that stick, the ones that play themselves out in my day-to-day? Some of those days, in the company of graceful friends, I think, perhaps, I can.


[photo by greg westfall per cc 2.0]

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