On Thunderstorms, Spiders, and the Supreme Court
Processing the past few weeks
As I quick-step down the steep grade of my driveway, I feel the subtle changes that tell me a thunderstorm is near. The air as I stepped from my air-conditioned house feels thick, like a physical weight on my skin that I have to bear up under, full of so much moisture that a sheen of sweat almost immediately coats all visible skin. The wind is ruffling the very tops of the trees, making them toss their leaves so that the underbellies flip upside down and the tops twist towards me. My mission is simple: retrieve the package the UPS driver left for me on the driveway. Some have questioned why we wanted to build a house on top of a hill as we did, and I think most of the local UPS drivers count themselves in that number. Few brave the steep slope through the green tunnel of trees to a house they can’t even see.
Maybe it’s asking too much faith from them to trust that there is indeed a house up here to go with the numbers on the mailbox by the road. So they leave me packages in strange places, giving me a sort of scavenger hunt each time I get the “package delivered” notice.
The first raindrop hits my skin: a tiny cold pinprick of moisture to join the warm, salty dampness already accumulated. And I wonder: is there a scientific explanation for the way the forest smells immediately different right before it rains? I try to categorize the smell in my mind, sniffing deeply like a wine connoisseur trying to tease out the flavors of a fine vintage, but I fail to find words to describe it. It is a scent that is utterly unique and therefore beyond the boundaries of my vocabulary.
It takes the rain a few tries to get going. The air gets heavier and heavier as the storm slowly moves over my house. And then finally it can hold no more. It breaks loose and pours from the sky, pounding into the dry, dusty earth below. The temperature drops a good ten degrees and the humidity here under the shelter of my porch roof is gone.
The air before a thunderstorm feels tense and when it finally rains, there’s relief. But there has been no relief to the tension in our bodies and souls and in the very air itself in the wake of multiple devastating Supreme Court rulings over the past two weeks. The shoe has dropped. I’m not sure it was the other one, but it was what many of us had been expecting since it became clear the previous administration was going to get not one, nor two, but three supreme court appointments.
I took my kids camping this past week, and we took a night hike to look for spiders. You can find spiders in a head lamp because when the light from the headlamp hits them, their eyes glitter like diamonds. In the early morning hours of the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze hike, there were so many spiders alongside the trail that the forest felt truly enchanted as I began my hike that day in the velvety predawn darkness.
But this week as we hiked back towards our campsite, I led the way down a fork in the trail, and my face took out an unseen spiderweb. I’m not sure why the spiders build their webs across the trail, but they frequently do. The thing was, I’d come down this same fork a few hours before and there was no web.
Being the first one down a trail in the morning means “silk blazing” or taking out all the spider webs for those who come behind you. I duck when I can, but the webs are frequently so fine that they are invisible unless the light hits them just so.
I sit here writing this and watching a tiny spider spin a web between the betta tank on my desk and the shelf above it. I had just done maintenance on the tank and dusted the lid earlier this morning, and I wiped off what I thought was an old spider web, but evidently, I destroyed this one’s handiwork. Undaunted, it respins what was lost.
Thread by thread bit by bit we build back what was lost. We lean into our networks, and draw strength up from our roots, and we build back.
Inward Apocalypse is Done! (I hope).
“I wish I could still believe in God, but I can’t be a Christian anymore because of ______” Fill-in-the-blank with racism, misogyny, homophobia, toxic capitalism, and so on. I’ve had this conversation with different people almost word-for-word over and over. White American Christianity has so defined God that many people cannot separate God from the toxic theology they were taught.
But this isn’t the God I see in the Bible. The Bible shows us a God meeting people where they are and nudging them towards justice and total thriving for all: shalom. The Bible details arcs of justice and societal reform. If we understand how radical those arcs were in the context of the day, we can extend them forward into the future and figure out how to work for justice, total thriving, and societal reformation in our day.
I grew up in that first world view. Come along, and I’ll tell you the story of how I escaped, and I’ll show you a theology that I believe paints a more accurate picture: a faith for the common good where everyone thrives and no one is left out. —Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good.
I sent my final documents to the publisher yesterday. Here’s hoping they don’t find anything that needs one more revision!
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