Several years ago, my family traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a family wedding. Being so close to a fantastic array of historical destinations, we decided to add a couple of days on to our trip and sight-see our way around the Washington, D.C. area. That was all planned before the government shutdown. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined that the key sites and acres around our nation’s capital and Gettysburg would be barricaded. The battlefields in and around Gettysburg, The National Zoo, all of the Smithsonian complexes, monument after monument, and even the public restrooms were all off limits to citizens and world tourists. How do you begin to answer children’s questions such as, “Why can’t we go to the Lincoln Memorial?” and “What does the Capitol look like on the inside?” I struggled to find words.
One afternoon, as we drove into Washington, there was a little scuffle in the back seat of our rental car. One kid wasn’t getting their way. A book or backpack had crossed the dividing line and quickly became a point of contention. None of the parties involved could agree on who was at fault or what could be done to resolve the issue. With no talk of reconciliation or compromise, irritation quickly turned into frustration and then into anger. Cruising east on the unusually desolate Constitution Avenue, the selfish stalemate of government was on full display among my own flesh and blood.
You may remember such a family fuss in your own vehicle or life. You may also recognize in this account a mirror image of our ongoing skirmish that is at the heart of our struggle against sin and the devil. We want things our way and we don’t want others to mess with “our” stuff.
One of the Bible readings at the Gettysburg wedding came from the popular words about love from First Corinthians – “Love is patient; love is kind…” The list goes on and on talking about selfless love, a love that is lived for others, an enduring love that is fueled by hope and patience. This love from God isn’t withdrawn and fortified apart from one another, but is a love that extends compassion and generosity to others. God’s love is a love that walks around barricades and dismantles walls for the purpose of love.
We see this love in action in the Holy Week stories of Jesus washing feet, sharing meals, and carrying the cross to the hillside where he will suffer and die. We also see this limitless love in motion with the bursting Easter tomb and Jesus’ visits to the disciples behind locked doors.
As children of God, we should always be wondering, “Where is God asking us to go? Are there places that we’ve closed God off or don’t expect God to show up? How is God seeking us?” Where is God knocking, trying to get in, but we continue to place hurdles and obstructions in an effort to avoid or elude interaction with the Divine?
Our last day in D.C., we had to make a parental choice. Do we obey the paper signs on the barricades and stand at the perimeter of the National Mall for a strained view the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials or do we, like so many others in an act of civil disobedience, make a way forward? With words of assurance that we wouldn’t spend a lifetime in jail, we grabbed the hands of our children and walked boldly around the barriers that were intended to keep us out.
Hey, Lord of Life, let’s walk, sing, and pray together as we boldly step into our future, ready to share the light and love of our God who is alive and loose in the world!