I have appreciated coming home. But it is a sad place. I mean that in the emotional sense: that there is a downward demeanor, a bereft esteem that characterizes the region. I fear falling into that pit, and feel guilty since I am an ambassador of good news. I feel responsible for the area’s inability to be lifted from its miry clay.
The esteem is manifest in many ways. Foremost is an inability to see beyond oneself. There are fewer self-damning devices as sinister as this particular lack of perspective. When you can see others on their own terms, it frees you to see yourself more truthfully and to be at peace. But when you can only see others in terms of how they are like or unlike you, then you inadvertently make yourself the standard for what is normal, good and right. Perspective allows us to see our sins and not project them onto others. The inability to see beyond oneself also crowds our hearts and minds, making it harder for God’s visions to enter.
Maybe we need some sort of purification method. Certainly, our communal soul is littered with disappointments, fears and conflict. Certainly, there are real causes for this dis-ease within us (lack of employment, addiction, educational deficiencies). We need a process for owning these experiences and feelings, so that we can put them in their proper place, so that room can be reclaimed for new life. The post-exilic Israelites fasted. John the Baptist’s cohort were immersed in the Jordan. Nazarites eschewed hygiene and alcohol. It worked for them. What will work for us?
Image: The Baptism of Jesus by Loci Lenar