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.
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:
I 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.