God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy. ~Billy Currington
Back when dinosaurs still breathed and all the fun wasn’t conveniently outsourced, cheerleaders actually handpainted the signs the football players would run through on the field. I was a country cheerleader mouse and my grandmother lived in town so the squad and I gathered in her front yard with ten house-sized paper canvases and a hundred thousand cans of spray paint. We worked mostly hard all the way to dark to come up with clever ways of trash-talkin the other team we were sure to beat.
As the world would turn, Meme tucked in early for the night and left us all alone with only our poor judgment for company.
Armed with the tragic moxie of youth and every color of paint in the rainbow, the girls and I thought it would just be so something to leave our mark on every street corner in our small town from Bledsoe to Pine.
We quite literally painted the town red.
Returning hours and empty cans later, our breathless giggles were stopped short-quick by the scowl of my red hot, foot-rapping grandmother. I’ve always been a quick study in times of trouble. My takeaways from this particular night? Meme sleeps with one eye open, a gaggle of girls is everything but stealthy, and scrubbing concrete with a steel brush will remove most of the paint and also the skin from your knuckles. It has served me well to remember these things and I can’t say I ever dabbled in graffiti again except for the underpass on senior night.
Something about suffering gets memory’s attention, I guess.
I suspect the excruciating pain in the rear of our nation that’s been this year’s election will have us all scrubbing the streets for a good long while.
But I think there are things we can take away from this particular time in history even while our knuckles are still bleeding:
1. Opinions are like bellybuttons: we all have one. Everyone is deeply attached to their own, none are fully naturally attractive, and some are hairier than others.
2. Words are like stones. I’ve known boulders with less heft to them than some words people have tried to make me carry. You too? Words have a weight you can hold and feel in your hands, don’t they? Not one will drop down in to the dirt without leaving some sort of mark and, in this election specifically, no one is left unbruised. We’ve seen every letter of the alphabet in all manner of combinations slingshotted, hurled and cast at every kind of precious fellow human we will ever know. And some days I can just feel my soul sweaty-browed and bearing under each one. But bigger than that and light as sun-fresh air? I’ve witnessed people taking turns dropping their own stones at their feet in the full-faith effort of building a bridge marked by a genuine desire for understanding and compassion. There’s almost something supernatural about using opportunities for building up rather than tearing down that gets the world’s attention, don’t you think? Weapons or tools, life or death: thank goodness we always have a choice about how we use our own stones.
3. Good wisdom can be found in the dirt. When is the last time you really watched earth just do her thing? She rolls from sunrise and summer to sunset and fall repeat ad infinitum for the business she was created to attend. And she works as though it does not depend on us even as we bend her for our use. Though she is scarred and devoured simply as a byproduct of our own humanity, she holds ever steady still. And the thing that keeps her from spinning crazily out past the Milky Way is the etching in the bones of all creation: the waves and wind still know His name (Luke 8:24). It’s the secret she holds we know, remember, and forget.
But earth? She never forgets.