Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body, that is Christ, who is the head. From Christ, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
I feel the weight of our American culture pretty heavily this week. The individualistic, pull yourself up by your bootstrap mentality is a disservice to us all. I think we may have taken it too far. We are so lost in our own way of doing that we forget you really can’t pull yourself up by your bootstrap. My mother’s people come from pioneer stock. I heard my grandfather tell stories of running barefoot alongside the wagon as they walked from Kentucky to Missouri. Those stories weren’t about individual, self-sufficiency; the cast of characters was vast and broad, including family, neighbors and kind strangers along the way. You just couldn’t get by on your own. And towns tended to grow based on need, a blacksmith, a mill on the stream, a doctor – a community that made the whole better.
I’ve mentioned before, we have a five year old that stays with us a few days a week. He’s quite industrious, loves to organize, and is very good at tidying up. Give that young man a broom and he’s unstoppable. Every once in a while he’ll grow impatient and dive into a project while I’m otherwise occupied. Elbow deep in suds or briskly whisking a portion of our dinner, from the far corner of the house I’ll hear, “I need a little help in here!” He and I can go through a couple of cycles of… “Let me just finish this pan….get this in the oven…” If you go through too many cycles, he’ll eventually make his way to you, hands on hips. “Still needing help in there.”
Yep - got it. I’m on my way. And when we get to the project he’ll explain where my special talent/skill was needed and he couldn’t move forward until I was there to help. He’s very clear that some things he does better than me, like building Lego trucks and sweeping dust from the corners. But apparently I have a skill of getting the dust into the dust pan better, or building a Lincoln Log roof. Grandpa digs a better post hole and we all have a role in finding the eggs the chickens hide all over the barn.
And when we are working to make this world a better place for all, isn’t that what it’s all about? You might be better at one aspect of addressing the problem and I might be better at another. And if we talked, truly collaborated – transcended our egos – perhaps we’d realize it’s not a problem at all but a chance to help heal and transform not only our communities and neighborhoods but ourselves as well. There are some things I do well and other things, I have no business doing. And even with the best of intentions, if I don’t have the skills, training or experience, I can cause a lot of harm. Good intentions are not enough.
So I have to ask myself with all of the work that needs done, partnerships and trust that needs built, why are we carving out maps of social injustice – competing groups that claim to want the same things to stop the injustice? In one area you can have six groups addressing the same need but they don’t talk to one another let alone pool resources and work together.
What keeps us from working together? What are we afraid of? What if we focused on connections and gifts and less on “my way” or needing to be the one who saves the day? If we spend all of our resources on the bootstrap mentality, what do we do when the bootstrap breaks? We each have our part to strengthen and grow and our parts – our gifts – are not equal but they are equally important. What prevents us from just saying, “We need a little help over here?” And understand that together we aren’t just more; we are the whole body, joined and held together in God’s love.
So grateful to be on the path with you,