Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
It’s hard not to be nostalgic on this day. We sit back, think about our lives before 9/11. We may even lean toward over-romanticized dreaming of victory gardens, ticker-tape parades, red-white and blue bunting and glass bottles of soda. For many of us those are not even lived memories but characterizations of a collective wish for what we saw as more innocent times in this country. And I don’t begrudge us that wishing. In fact, I find myself in a similar place.
For me, September 11th is more than just a day that is now a part of our shared national tragic history; it was my grandfather’s birthday. James Alexander Mayfield was born September 11, 1902. He passed away some years ago but he lived a long and colorful life. Growing up, I spent much of my childhood between both sets of grandparents. It was a rich and blessed gift that somehow I was lucky enough to know even then that it was special.
My grandfather’s uniform was blue striped overalls, washed so often they felt baby soft and long-sleeve button collar shirts, an itinerant carpenter by trade and story-teller by love. He could weave tales that left your side aching from laughter. Afternoons would be spent on the porch, where I’d sit spell bound, literally at his feet while he talked of growing up, running barefoot through the hills and hollers of rural Missouri with young brothers I only knew as old men. With his fiddle in hand in between mournful ballads and jaunty jigs, he’d thread tales of coon dogs and fox chases, working in the Civilian Conservation Corps and raising eleven children during the depression.
And as much as I love my grandfather, if I am honest, he was a much wounded man, who could not always live into his best self and would hurt those he loved most. As a much older and experienced person now, when I look back, I think it was his inability to embrace his own human limitations that exacerbated those moments. And in turn, he had a very difficult time asking for grace and forgiveness when the hurt was done. You may be wondering, why I am writing about something so private and one could say, unflattering to his memory.
Today, is my birthday. My grandfather and I shared a very special day and a very special bond. It was difficult some years as a little girl to share that day with him and other years it was pure gift. But I think I love him all the more for his human failings, and I wish he could see that he was loved deeply and is still loved even knowing some of his unkindness. When I think of my own grandchildren, I hope I don’t do anything to hurt them but if I in my being human I do, then I hope I have enough wisdom and strength to ask for forgiveness.
It is perhaps the greatest lesson, we elders can offer our youth, modeling truth and offering a chance to be spoken to with love. And the truth is as humans and human institutions we fail; we do hurtful things. But we are capable of not repeating those mistakes if we are willing to hear we’ve made a mistake but also asking for help in not repeating it in the future.
As I write this, there are parades, memorials and vigils honoring those of 9/11. But do we really do a service if we gloss over all the human failings that brought us to that day? As I write this, more reports of people being shot in north St. Louis, as many as six in one afternoon, yet we don’t ask how is that possible? We complain that there is no accountability, no reconciliation, and no justice. How can we have those things personally and collectively, when after tragedy we indulge in nostalgic dreams that deny what it means to be human? How can we expect our youth and future leaders to be able to fail, ask for forgiveness and be given another chance if we are not willing to do those ourselves? How can we expect something of others that they have never been given and that we have the power to give?
What truth are you willing to speak with love, even if it hurts a little to hear it?
A little older and hopefully wiser on the path,