I’ve been trying to write something for this blog for well over a month. It has not come easily. We’re a month into a new reality in our nation. The two sides grow further and further apart. Just recently, I realized that what I really want is not simply to stop the bleeding, or make a sharp point, or take back something I’ve lost. What I truly desire is to move to a different place. Like Canada. Just kidding (but not entirely). I mean, as a nation, we need to figuratively move to a different place where we can hear each other and relate to each other with patience, empathy, and humility. There are people whom I deeply love, who see things from a diametrically opposite view. We need to find common ground. We need a new place to call home. Look, we all basically want the same things: We want security. We want peace. We want clean water and fresh air. We want opportunity. We want to be proud of our country and our leaders. We want to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
It took a while for me to get here. I’ve been in denial. Denial is one of the most powerful tools we have in our survival arsenal. I’m an expert at denial. In November, I mostly decided to not deal with the new reality. In a Washington Post Op Ed, Garrison Keillor wrote:
We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long , brisk walk and smell the roses.
Apparently, Keillor’s piece raised the ire of many of my liberal friends (who must not like heirloom tomatoes). But it resonated so deeply with me that I was practically giddy with relief – someone else felt the same way. I spent the better part of the next two months on my Happy Denial Isle.
Eventually, the bubble burst. The reality that someone who embodies virtually everything I oppose: greed, bigotry, hatred, rudeness, arrogance, pride, vulgarity, gluttony – is in charge of my country. A country that I love in such a way that I choke up whenever I sing the national anthem. My denial has been replaced by anger…maybe closer akin to rage. Still not the ideal reaction…but it’s progress.
Then I remembered that I’ve heard of a place where things are different. A place where there is no pain, no tears, no mourning, no hunger, no disgrace and presumably no drama, dissention, or disagreement either.
I’ve heard of this place: The Kingdom of God.
The first words Jesus spoke in his new ministry, as recorded in the oldest gospel of Mark, are these: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." From the moment I first heart this text, I have been fascinated and slightly obsessed by what Jesus might have meant by “the Kingdom of God.” What is it like? Is it the same as heaven? Where is it, exactly and how does it “come near”? Does it influence our lives today? Is it somehow present on this planet in the water, wind and light?
This blog helps me actively work on this mystery. For me, birds are a clue. They help me consider the ethereal concept of the Kingdom of God that is apparently closer than we can imagine. The Kingdom of God is one of a handful of topics that I return to again and again, to ruminate upon, pray, sing, study, read and imagine. I yearn to feel, intuit, taste, touch, smell and see…to ken – really know -- the Kingdom of God -- not just head knowledge, but body and heart knowledge too.
One of Jesus' goals in the Sermon on the Mount is to contrast the governing principles of the world as we know them with those of the Kingdom of God. In the prelude to that sermon, known as the Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor in Spirit, blessed are those who mourn…etc) Jesus is not talking about how things are on earth, but rather how things are in the Kingdom of God. Here’s where it’s revealed that Kingdom is not very much like that romantic notion of the place we all hope to go to when we die – the version with pearly gates, streets paved in gold, halos, harps, and angels. No, Jesus says the Kingdom of God has come near…it’s here, among us, all around us now, if we know how to look for it.
The beatitudes are truths about the Kingdom. I’m going to spend some time considering the beatitudes; to see if I can find help for the living of these days; some way to allow the Kingdom and the principles and laws that rule there to have some bearing on our lives today.