Reflectionary

Frame of Reference

You probably know that while I understand the need for Pure Luck to work away from home for part of each year, I am still a bit of a romantic newlywed four years into our marriage, and I miss him. But, really, we get to speak to each other each day, and we’ll see each other on Tuesday, and in just another month (ish), he will be home again for several months.

At the risk of sounding like dear little Pollyanna with her Glad Game, I am working hard on adjusting my frame of reference. He *does* come home, you see, after each and every job, so there is no need to drop into my childhood abandonment tailspin of doom.

But–

old habits are hard to break, aren’t they? When we spend a significant portion of our lives framing things in a certain way, it takes an enormously conscious effort to change it.

I have a great picture taken when Cheesehead was here, of the two of us facing the camera, but I won’t post it since she is an anonymous blogger. But here is my face in the picture:

SongbirdI used the tools in Microsoft Picture Manager to crop it, to make a new frame that showed only the one of us, to show only me. I was trying to create an avatar other than my purple face for Google Talk, and this was the result.

I’ve played the same kind of game with photographs. After a falling out in college, I cut a friend out of a photo. It was a cute picture of me, and I wanted to keep it. Cutting him out felt suitably brutal at the time, and in later years, when we were friends again, it made a good joke on me.

A friend and colleague spent some time this summer taking amazing pictures of the mushrooms growing in the woods around our denominational summer camp. I had absolutely no idea that there were so many varieties, in such varied colors and shapes and sizes. And I marveled at the way he photographed them.  He didn’t crop them later. He set up the shot he wanted.  He took time to consider his frame of reference.

The gospel tells us about a man, rich (sometimes young), who asks Jesus how he can get into heaven. Jesus quizzes him about his adherence to the Law, and the man assures Jesus he has been faithful in all matters.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then
  come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
(Mark 10:21-22)

It’s interesting to hear Jesus call the man’s great wealth and many possessions a "lack." Lack of what? Lack of care for the poor? Lack of will to live without the trappings of power and position? Lack of freedom to pick up and go with Jesus?

All we know is that he went away grieving. None of us likes to hear about the thing we are lacking, do we?

As a woman who became a mother before she became a pastor, I feel that last tension most of all. Is my call to care for my family a geographical hindrance, a lack of the complete freedom to follow that many of my colleagues seem to have? Or is it simply part of who I am called to be and not the obstacle it may seem to present?

It all depends on your frame of reference.

This week’s gospel lesson doesn’t help to put an encouraging spin on the matter. Jesus goes on to say,

"Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)

Now you can try and tell me this was a message writ for an apocalyptic time, spoken and recorded and preserved by people who thought surely the world was coming to its end. We sit here nearly 2000 years later in very different circumstances, surely. Surely?

When I contemplate where life and ministry might take me next, I think a lot about my 15-year-old. I was a sophomore in high school when my dad had an amazing career opportunity, a chance at a creative challenge just a few years after a crushing loss. I know he thought my brother and I would be fine if he moved us. After all, the father’s career was the most important factor in a family’s life.  It certainly seemed that way at the time. I have tended to swing in the other direction and consider that my work must take a back seat to what is best for my children.

I don’t think that’s what Jesus is getting at in this passage. It would take a pretty pretzel-shaped frame of reference to conclude that he is. He is saying that nothing is more important than following him, in the same mouthful of words that promise us persecutions right along with rewards!

Sometimes I don’t like that guy so much. I appreciate his turning things upside down until I feel things dropping out of my own emotional pockets as I hang shaking, my arms dangling helplessly, the blood rushing to my brain.

I could say to myself, "Oh, but I’ll re-frame this picture that is making me so uncomfortable. I’ll think of moms who have much harder questions to consider, or I’ll preach about Job instead, or I’ll just make this a great stewardship moment, or a call to care for the poor, or…or…or…"

But none of that stops me from feeling this is a hard text, to read, to preach, to consider, to swallow. My frame of reference is indisputably that of educated white woman, devoted wife and mother, committed pastor, political liberal, theological progressive and doting dog owner, and not one part of that frame of reference fits comfortably around this passage. I cannot make it work.

And maybe that’s the Good News, after all. 2000 years later, the world is still here, and the words of Jesus still have the power to trouble me into reconsidering my frame of reference, into trying to define myself first as faithful follower. I may not succeed, but I will try. I will try.

17 thoughts on “Frame of Reference”

  1. That’ll preach, sister.
    And you are right–the picture, the whole picture, is a good one. The best I’ve looked in a photograph in a very long time. Must be the company.

  2. Great inspiration you have with these two texts. Thanks.
    You are prettier than this picture but I do like it and am glad you posted it.
    I want to see Cheese’s pic, too.
    If you are “fine”, your children will be “fine”. I believe this. Where you are is where they are secure.
    LYL

  3. This was a good draft exercise for my sermon; thanks for the feedback! I realized when I finished I had mostly left Job out, so I added a little more about him and wrapped up with some application to our life as a church.
    Sometimes we do need to give a little testimony, don’t we?

  4. That’s preaching for sure! And you’re gorgeous! I love the image of you hanging upside down, having your pockets emptied, blood rushing to your head. Especially after seeing all that gorgeous hair.

  5. I was going to say something profound about your post but I got distracted by the photo.
    HOW DO YOU LOOK SO YOUNG? I thought you and I were about the same age!
    Surely that photo is from when you and Cheesehead met back in the 70s ….

  6. Oh Jo(e), if you saw my half you would realize that it was indeed taken a couple of weeks ago. Trust me.

  7. I did not, ppb, my hair was as thick and straight as The Princess’ hair is now. It started to curl just before I turned 40, and it is getting curlier with each passing year. I love it!!!
    cheesehead, you are needlessly hard on yourself.
    jo(e), perhaps we show our age differently…because you look young in your photos, too!

  8. Seeing that picture reminds me that I miss you!
    Bother that rather wide expanse of sea…We could have done sermon prep together round the dining table…
    Hugs xx

  9. You ask: “Is my call to care for my family a geographical hindrance, a lack of the complete freedom to follow that many of my colleagues seem to have? Or is it simply part of who I am called to be and not the obstacle it may seem to present? ”
    Oh, sister, when you have the answer to THAT hot question, please let me know asap!
    What a gorgeous photo – thanks so much for sharing it.

  10. sweetie, that abandonment stuff is hard to deal with. Kara has it resurface all the time. I have bits of it come up when I least expect it. Hang in there. Love the photo.

  11. Great Post…
    As far as being away from your sweetie so much, I can completely relate. My husband and I see each other for only 15 minutes a day during the week. Its very hard and I miss him lots too.
    Hang in there…

  12. There’s that passage thats always read at weddings about leaving your family and cleaving to your husband. Somehow that seems to fit with this, for me. This is much on my mind these days.

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