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Let’s say you’re husband out for your monthly dinner date night with your wife. Monthly, because that’s what you can afford within your household budget. Because it’s a popular, well-known place you made your reservations far in advance. You and wife arranged childcare; you’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.
You get there, availing yourselves of valet parking. You don’t do this often, so you want the full experience. You get inside, get seated, order drinks and appetizers. You unwind, relax, enjoy one another’s company like you haven’t in some time.
Your meals come. You switch with your wife, because it wasn’t quite what she expected. You don’t mind, you love her, and hey! It’s food!
You talk, holding hands, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes. You order dessert. Chocolate mousse cheesecake. It disappears.
The check comes; your jaw hits the floor. It’s far higher than you budgeted for. Turns out the restaurant has a policy of randomly assigning the bills, distributing them arbitrarily. And you got the check for a large party. You’re stuck.
It’s the restaurant’s policy. Nothing you can do.
AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS BERNIE SANDERS.
Canada. Land of maple syrup and poutine. America’s hat. You are home to some of the gosh darn nicest folks in this, or any other, galaxy. Lo, it has been many years since I visited your fair shores. But visit you I did one summer in my youth.
Here’s how it happened:
My bother and I were summering with the grandparents in the cool pines of Western Pennsylvania, when one say grandma decided we needed to see the falls. Niagara, that is. So she hustled us into her Oldsmolbuick, and off we were on a road trip. Over the river, and through the woods, with grandmother we went… to Buffalo. Home of wings, Bills, and freezing temperatures. And not a lot else.
In any case, grandma decided that experiencing the falls from the U.S. side, well, was falling a bit short. So crossed the border (“What’s your purpose in visiting Canada, eh?” “Coming to see the falls, sir.” “Well, have a lovely day, and don’t forget the syrup”), and headed for the view.
It was water. It was wet, moist, and misty. I’m not gonna lie, Marge, the surge of that powerful stream is pretty impressive. But it didn’t leave as much of an impression as the Canadian bread shop did. You see, grandma wanted to buy some bread. So why not buy it from a friendly Canadian shop keeper, eh?
So we did. And there, in amongst the loaves, was a special surprise.
“Grandma, what’s this?” I asked, holding up this unknown Canadian prize.
Turning to me, shrieked she, “Here now! Put. That. Down!” You have to understand, I was about eleven at the time. I goggled back at grandma, wondering what it was I held in my outstretched hand.
“Put that dirty thing down now! Where did you find that?”
You see, what I didn’t know at the time, what I held in front of poor grandma’s shocked visage, found there with the Wonderbread, was a Canadian wonder then unknown to my young mind:
An unrolled condom.
(It was probably maple-flavored, but we’ll never know).
Much ink has been spilled about the injustices, the inequities, seen all around us everyday. Kids go to bed hungry while parents shoot up dope. Or worse, kids wind up dead. There isn’t day goes by without a report of road rage; somebody cut someone else off, and then someone gets beat, shot, or run over. We regulate, legislate, send folks to anger management classes, hold sensitivity training at work, and try to watch our words. We’re simultaneously anxious, uptight, fried, yet we somehow don’t want to offend…
We sublimate, self-medicate, and stuff our feelings. Is it any wonder, with the the amounts of both intrinsic, and extrinsic, repression that there are slips in the space/time continuum? That there are blow ups? We are selfish by nature, out to get our own, looking out for number one (as the saying goes). We’re indignant when someone tramples upon our (perceived) rights, yet have no trouble trampling another’s rights, boundaries, space, to get what’s ours.
It’s reductio ad absursum. Yet we are blind to it. And no matter how enlightened, how modern, we become there are no programs, classes, sweat lodges, pilgrimages, substances, or really anything which can effect a change in what we call human nature. The heart simply cannot be changed by anything existing within the same broken, reprobate system in which it itself dwells. This calls for outside intervention.
No cleanses, juice fasts, or high colonics will ever rid us of the foolishness bound up in our hearts. A wise teacher once said it is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but rather that which comes out of him.
Out of his heart.
Many, many there are who seek enlightenment upon their own terms. But few there are who find new life.
The kids are not all right.
That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. He may not be the immediate answer to every ill in this vale of tears, but He certainly is the ultimate one.
Seek Him while He may be found.
The world is a contrary place, full of conflicting messages. We’re told “good things come to those who wait.” That “patience is a virtue.” We’re also told to “grab the bull by the horns,” or “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Somehow we’re supposed to be both humble, and yet assertive. Culture tells us we shouldn’t let anyone trample our rights. But then Scripture says (of Jesus, no less) that “He thought equality with God wasn’t something to be grasped.” He humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. Insofar as we can we’re supposed to emulate Him.
Recently, I found myself at the center of a controversy (of which I knew nothing) regarding cubicle size, and who was going where. Instead of insisting, I said I didn’t care. In fact, I was rather irritated by the office politics. I said I just wanted a spot to put my stuff. Let the other folks preen, jockeying for position.
I wanted to be above the fray. I mean we have real work to do here…
Now that we’ve moved, I’m honestly struggling with it. Everyone else in my position class gets their own cube, and I’m sharing with three other folks in an open quad. Yeah, I’m thankful to have a spot, but I’m not less than peers. I work just as hard, having been commended numerous times over the years for exemplary service. I want to be above all of this pertinent, allowing the Lord to reward we in due time. But I also wonder if, being cognizant of the corporate culture, they’re waiting for me to display some initiative, some leadership, some chutzpah.
I don’t know. I’m conflicted, being all too aware that “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I’m thankful to be gainfully employed, have a roof over my head, and a great family…
And all the times I’ve ever insisted upon my rights have always come back to slap me in the face.
I suppose the best I can do, and in the words of Charles Williams, is to keep building my altars in one place so that the fire from heaven may fall in another.
That’s the story of my life.
How about yours? What conflicting messages do you find yourself struggling with?