I don't know if you heard, but Judgement Day is in less than eight days. Fortunately, I happened to be out driving around yesterday and I saw the sign on the top of a muddy brown station wagon. There were a bunch of other signs on the car, but I couldn't make them out since we were passing each other in different directions. I hope I didn't miss anything important.
When I saw that message about the end of the world, I was on my way to an ISP meeting for my younger brother, Tim, at his employer's office; it was my first visit there. The assembled group talked about Tim's progress and next year's goals and then Tim's boss offered to show us around the facilities. It was an ordinary building, institutional blue with a faint coating of neglect. "Nothing fancy!" the boss said, as we threaded our way down a narrow hallway to the work room. He held open the heavy doors and I walked through. In the wide open space, the employees were divided into groups of 10 or 15, each one working on a specific task. At one table they bagged dog food samples, at another they assembled water sanitation test kits. The room was buzzing with conversation and good mood.
I'd hardly stepped inside before the first person had rushed up to greet me. He was tall and thin, older than me by several years, but he grabbed my hand and shook it intently. He asked my name, became confused when I told him the man I was with was my dad, not my husband, and then asked for my name again. While we were sorting that out, word got around that we were Tim's family and the mood got even brighter. Everyone wanted to wave to us and tell us about the project they were completing or the music they were listening to or find out when we were going to come back to visit them. A lump grew in my throat as I looked around the room at the 150 disabled adults, all of them doing their honest, meaningful work under the watchful care of a group of heroic people who have dedicated their lives to the dignity of the overlooked and unappreciated.
This is the work of God, I thought. This is the kind of place where you find Christ.
After witnessing such grace, I couldn't help thinking about the man in the station wagon and his apocalyptic message on the drive home. I wondered about the winding road that led to his belief; about the passion that makes a man willing to look a fool in order to spread the message; about the conviction he must have that he is trying to save us from imminent danger. Most of all, I thought about May 22, and prayed that God would be there to catch him when he wakes to find himself still held within the confines of our mortal earth and sky.
I've run into a lot of similar passion on the internet lately. Go outside your own, safe, blogging circles and you'll find dire warnings and passionate convictions abound. Some of these people, let's face it, are just argumentative bullies - but others have genuine love and fear that we who ignore their message will be left behind God's grace. I can appreciate that motivation, but I still feel sorry for them. They spend so much time combing through words, compiling "truth and error" lists, watching for danger and waiting for the sky to fall, that they miss the beautiful freedom of the gospel of Christ.
When I arrived back home and checked in with the blogging world, I found nothing had changed: religious nonsense was still parading around as discernment; the body of Christ still amputating its members in the name of truth and love. In the light of the real people, real ministry, and real mercy I'd touched earlier in the day, it turned my stomach. How can faith so easily twist into cold, hard religion?
Fred Rogers, a man who modeled the kind of person I want to be in this world, asked a profound question once about the medium he chose for his work:
"Why on earth couldn't we use this thing called television for the broadcasting of grace throughout the land?"
I'm asking myself the same question about the internet.
Some inspiring links this morning:
Validation (just for fun!)
And to those who think I'm advocating some kind of squishy, sentimental touchy-feely love and grace, a nice read here from Rachel Evans: Love is not weak.