Close Quarters

Last week was a busy one because of our “The Body of Christ and the Pubic Square” conference. With a lot of us working in close quarters with so many people on so many things, a good number of us are tired, both physically and mentally.

Just thinking about everything that goes into the conference, I get tired. Just typing those words, I’m reminded of something else.

My daughter, Madeline, has been compiling a list of favorite songs on her phone. In fact, every Wednesday night as we drive home from midweek catechesis together, at some point along the way, she’ll announce how many hours of music she has gathered. Our first Wednesday evening of traveling together, she told me she has a playlist that’s about ten hours long. Just last Wednesday I learned she’s closing in on hour eleven.

“Why are you doing this, again?” I asked the first time she shared it.

“Because if we drive to Florida, I need at least eighteen hours of listening music.”

“Oh, okay.”

As a result of the initial conversation, while driving home together on Wednesdays, I’ll help with her list. I play songs from a thumb drive connected to my car stereo and I make recommendations. Most of the time she knows the songs because we listen to music a lot in our house. But if she doesn’t, and she likes it, she’ll make a note to add it. Last week we added “Land Down Under” by Men and Work, “The Rubberband Man” by Spinners, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, and a few other rock songs from folks like ACDC and Billy Squire.

The reason I mention all of this is because what Madeline doesn’t realize is that she’ll probably never get to use that playlist because I have no intention of ever driving to Florida. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love all four of my kids, but speaking only for myself, I don’t think my family of six would make it to Florida alive if we had to be in such close quarters for so long. Again, don’t get me wrong. There’s an over-abundance of love among us. But even as that love is there, my kids are most certainly individuals who need their own spaces, so when it comes to mixing with certain siblings, it can get ugly in a hurry. What I’m saying is that six people—no matter how much they love each other—in a relatively cramped Ford Explorer (that probably wouldn’t make it all the way to Florida, anyway) for eighteen hours has the potential for becoming something more akin to putting a wolverine, a badger, an opossum, a muskrat, a puma, and a timber wolf into a giant wet sleeping bag and swinging it around. (And yes, I thought about each one of those animals before I listed them, but I won’t tell you who’s who. Well, maybe I will tell you two of them. I’m the timber wolf and Jen is the puma.)

So how does this meet up with where I began?

Well, I suppose that in the end, even after the ruckus, all of these animals are a part of the animal kingdom and do still live in the same forest. There are wolves and pumas and muskrats and badgers all wandering in and among the same trees and streams.

That’s us as a congregation. We’re part of the same kingdom.

There are so many in our midst with so many attributes and gifts that God Himself has designed and graciously given. Used according to His calculations, they are a blessing to so many, and they often result in bringing to life something like our “The Body of Christ and the Public Square” conference. But because we’re human beings tainted by sin, there’s the chance of being in close quarters in any effort and growing exhausted with one another. When this happens, we discover ourselves capable of marking territories and guarding our dens.

I suppose at this point, the rules of the animal analogy start to break down, and here’s why. Unlike animals, it is by no means acceptable to eat our own. Saying this, I want you to know that I see all of you as members of my Christian family. And I’m glad that so many of you see everyone else that same way, because this means that even if you may find yourself spending eighteen hours in a car with one of your highly particularized brothers or sisters in Christ—or working for ten weeks on the details of a conference—you’ll emerge at the end of the excursion in a relationship that remains built on familial love. God gives that love. And that love isn’t so easily discarded. As I said, animals find it quite natural to eat their own. As a Christian family, that is to be far from us. And I believe it is. This side of a very exhausting event, I can see it, and I’m glad for it.