7 Saving Takes

7 Saving Takes November 9, 2018

You survived the week! So did I, barely.

Yesterday, as you no doubt saw, the Pelican Project launched, and in one day gathered up over a thousand twitter followers. Here is the CT article I meant to come back in and link, but never managed to. I’ve just spent ten minutes trying to excerpt it and honestly, and I just can’t pull out any single line that stands out against the rest—they are all That Good. You’re going to have to go read the whole thing.

Like any thrilling and necessary idea that starts out as a germ and then is properly drafted, and then redrafted, and edited, and redrafted, and then fixed upon, and then reconsidered, and then just tweaked one or two more times for good measure, getting to work on this project with so many interesting and diverse personalities and backgrounds has made the last two years a delight. If there could ever be an encouragement to the church, it should be that in a single day our commitments were written down and agreed upon whole heartedly. Of course, we reworded everything a hundred times, but those commitments are there in their first complete essence. Someone asked on some thread or other if there isn’t too much that divides us, if our different theological view points won’t be too big and how can we possibly “amplify” that about which we cannot agree. The answer to which is, go look at our commitments. That which is orthodox is substantial, complete, and compelling. And that which is non-essential has been made to take up all of the oxygen of most of us Christians for several decades. To be able to say, ‘this is essential, this is what we’re doing together,’ was such an obvious and easy thing that only God could have done it. Which he did. And I’m so grateful I feel like crying.

But I won’t. I’ll save it for Sunday afternoon for the opera, because now whenever Suor Angelica collapses, dying in the most divinely clear tragical soprano notes, around the neck of my child, I do weep every time. I can’t believe I didn’t even know this opera existed a month ago, and that now the music is embedded in my very dreams.


Truly, what I like best about this operatic experience has been watching the child who generally runs all her words together, who whispers, who seems prepared to apologize for her very existence, who is always bullied by her two inch taller little sister, is now standing at the door of her dressing room, triumphant, ready to climb into the exalted realm of heaven on the hand of a gloriously singing nun-chorus member, back straight, vowels clear, lisp gone, and who, to my great satisfaction, looked her enormous baby sister square in the eye yesterday and, voice dripping with condescension, told her where to get off. So many beautiful things are coming together in this one moment. To behold the triumphant put down of the bully with the glorious words, “Salvami, Salvami” ringing in our spiritual background has made life truly worth living.

This article by David French is really good though discouraging. And confirms for me again the critically necessary work of thoughtfully and methodically and unrelentingly building up the local church. My church is in a neighborhood filled with all kinds of desperation and despair. So many people walk through our doors who are right on the edge, who are grasping for sanity and hope with everything they have, but who are wary, sure that probably Jesus isn’t the way to anywhere they want to go. But you stick there, one by one, offering that single way, offering to pray, offering to listen, until your feet hurt. We don’t really need more twitter and facebook—although finding support and encouragement on social media is totally fine, especially if it is in the form of the Pelican Project—we need more people strengthened in their spiritual core, more people standing long and prayerfully, quietly and unrelenting articulating the gospel to one person after another, offering the mercy and grace of Jesus to those who are, now every week, literally perishing. This is the work that will last, that will silently overturn the desperation of individual people who matter and who don’t know where to go or who to be or what to do.

One thing I have discovered about raising children over the last decade and a half is that most children need, and long for more than anything, the satisfaction of competency. I had read this in books when surrounded by babies and cheerios ground into the carpet. But I didn’t really know, even for myself, how important it is to be able to do something, and do it well. Most of us know what it feels like to do a job all the way from its beginning point to its ending one, and we know the relief and satisfaction. But we also know the pain, the struggle, the discouragement. And often those three loom over and obscure the sense of relief and joy that come from hard won success.

Looking into the face of a child, I always whisper to myself, ‘It’ll be easier if I just do it myself.’ And that is certainly true. But it isn’t right or good. It is better to let another person struggle along doing something badly, giving him room to figure it out, giving her space to struggle and sort it out on her own terms, to help when asked, rather than to leap in and do for another person something he will ultimately be happier doing alone. I say this as a way of trying to come to terms with the exuberant self-confidence of a teenager who used to be a lot more apologetic and check in with me a lot more and who I thought was one kind of person but turns out to be a completely different kind of person.

Well, there you are, better go read some real takes. I will arise and go stare at my children in a baffled silence while they organize their lives and yell at each other. You can find me on twitter scrolling along, obsessively looking at the number of Pelican twitter followers. It’s the right thing to do. I hope you’ll join me.

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