My daughters are much more attuned to what is happening in our nation and world today than I ever was at ages 16 and 13. In the 1980s, I cared little for what was happening beyond my own little teenage bubble. But my teenagers have questions; they express fears; they state lots of opinions about how we, the adults, are handling things. They are a part of the next generation of young adult leaders who do not like to be labeled… period.
From what I am learning, my daughters’ generation does not want to be labeled by adults’ categories of politics, skin color, socio-economic status, gender or sexual orientation. They lean into what it means to be “fluid”… they remind me and teach me to be open in really hearing one another. They listen and dialogue with their peers: those with whom they agree and those with whom they disagree. In many ways, the way they are teaching me to truly “see” people echoes Jesus calling Zacchaeus to come down out of the tree or honoring the presence of the outcast Samaritan woman at the well and loving all of her. They are not afraid of “the other.”
Thursday morning, January 7, my 16-year-old came into our dining room and wanted to share with me the content of her online class. She stated that the teacher set aside the proposed and prepared class content and opened the online “floor” for students to express their views of what happened at the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. My daughter reported to me how good it was to hear everyone’s points of view. Everyone. While she disagreed with some and agreed with others, she really appreciated the teacher giving safe space and time to discuss what was yet another historic moment in the last twelve months… moments in 2020 where, in her opinion, she has found adults too quick to judge, dismiss, or suffocate for dialogue or healthy debate… listening and learning for possible understanding.
Thursday morning was yet another watershed… one of those moments, fleeting and easy to miss, but powerful if I take the time to slow down and digest it. A time to see how God’s presence and grace are real in a relentless and weary time of the pandemic and during the political transition. On a cold cloudy morning filled with bad news and worrisome virus statistics, I was given the opportunity to see God’s love and vision for the future amidst the hellish days we have all been enduring since March 2020.
FPC friends, our young people are calling for us to continue to provide safe, judgement-free avenues for conversation about what is happening around them and to them… to open gates that have been long closed and padlocked… to invite them to walk with us in pastures where we are all vulnerable… we are all invited to take off our protective shoes and boots and get our feet wet and muddy together.
In doing so, may we give them freedom to think out loud, to explore, to wonder, and to claim who they are. Because, we know… we know because we witnessed their baptism… we celebrated their day of confirmation around the font… we know to whom they belong. And our call as “the elders” is to help them see whose they are: beloved children of God who, like us, are called to build bridges, not erect walls.
The song that keeps playing in my head today is “The Carpenter’s Song” by David Wilcox. It was first released in 1996. David Wilcox is a folk singer who tells stories that have subtle spiritual/religious themes. Today, in the second week of the new year, I am thankful for this song. I am thankful for a teacher who opened a door for my 16 year old. Most importantly, I am deeply grateful for a carpenter, the One we call Jesus, Emmanuel: God incarnate, the One we serve and follow, the One who models building bridges.
Take a moment today to read the lyrics to this song… or listen to it from the video below… and may we, as adult faith community leaders, find ourselves in places where we build bridges and open doors for community… for today and tomorrow.
The Carpenter Song by David Wilcox
I don’t know how long it had been, since these neighbors had even talked to each other
I think it had been about two years, maybe
And it started over the dumbest thing. It was just that stray cat
I mean, one of them thought it was theirs and then it went over to the other porch there, across the little field, the valley there
And the other farmer took it in. Each of them thought it was their cat, and every time they’d start talking, they’d start arguing about it
And then they just quit talking
And so that when the traveler came through looking for work, one farmer said, “Well, yeah. You say you’re a carpenter, I’ve got some work for you.”
“You see that house across this field here? Well, that’s my damn neighbor!” “You see this little ditch here in the middle? Well, he calls that the creek!” “He dug that with his plow! He went up on the hill and changed the way the spring comes down!” “The creek! It’s got a little trickle running through there.”
“Well, if he’s gonna try to divide us up with that thing, I’ll jus’ as soon finish the job. I want a fence – all the way across. I don’t even want to have to look at him! Can you do that?”
And this carpenter says, “Well, yeah, I could do that. I would need a whole lot more wood. But I could get started with what you’ve got in the shed there, you’d have to go into town.”
And by the time that farmer comes back, driving up that ole rutted road in his truck, full of that lumber. And he looks out into that field, where his new fence ought to be, and that carpenter has built… a…. bridge
Out of his wood! Onto his land! And here comes his neighbor! Walking across his bridge, walking onto his land, hand out-stretched, big ol’ stupid smile on his face
Coming right up to his truck, and his neighbor says, “You’re, you’re a brave man, I didn’t think you’d ever want to hear the sound of my voice again.” “I feel like such a damn fool, can you, can you forgive me?”
And this farmer finds himself saying, “Awww, hell, I knew that was your cat!”
And he looks over, and the carpenter is walking away, and he says, “Hey! Hey, I’ve got some more work for ya, if you ah….What?”
The carpenter says, “You’ll be fine… I’m needed elsewhere.”