As a pastor I often find myself in the land of “and.” I’ll sit down to have coffee with one friend and grieve about their job loss, and then in the next hour I will be celebrating with another about a promotion they got at work. Someone will ask me why they don’t hear God speak to them ever, and the next day another friend will passionately share what they have experienced as clarity for God’s call on their life.
That simple conjunction–and–is the most meaningful word for me these days. It has the ability to add hope, depth, and keep the conversation going. Unlike its opposite, the word but, it doesn’t cancel out the words and ideas and feelings before it. “I love you but you drive me crazy,” isn’t as true as “I love you and you drive me crazy.” More importantly, and can be a bridge of unity in a broken world. It can do what I so often long for: name life in tension. My week and my personal life can be a roller-coaster all held within that very same tension. That little, simple, word gives us a middle ground and landscape in which we live in authenticity.
On a beautiful October Boulder night, I sat with a group of amazing people new to the All Souls community and I attempted to describe our community: “Here at All Souls, we are a beautiful mess. We are a community of sinners and saints, blessed and broken, longing to speak truth and grace to each other. We try to be hospitable to new faces and deep in intentional relationships. This community is a space where we hold the tensions of joy and sorrow, historic and innovative faith, gospel words and actions.” The list and stories went on and on as we sat in the shadow of the Flatirons and the sun dipped low. One of the things that gives me great confidence in the All Souls community is people’s willingness to stand, weep, dance, sing, doubt within the land of and together.
We must know that we do not stand in this place of joy and tears, loss and new life, hope and anguish, alone. And is a tension that God holds for us and draws us into. The greatest mystery and community this world will ever know is found in the diversity and unity of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. I believe the good news of Christ begs us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience and bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4). I believe we were all created and find life within this tension. Let me be the first to say that living out this calling that Saint Paul begs us to, in this relationship of and, can be heartbreaking and messy and, hopefully, a more honest approach to this chaos we call life.