Did you ever stop and think about the fact that we just barely pass by our parents in life as adults?
It's like adult life is a set of intersecting hallways . . . and we barely brush past our parents in time to really know them. Even if we have 20 good years of knowing them as adults. Even if we have more than that - in the scheme of things, it's such a small time for something so precious.
Our grandparents? Even less time. An even shorter walk.
I don't mean to be morbid. It's just a thought I've had often over the past several years. How precious and small it all is - even when we find ourselves angry with these passers by. Even when they've messed up and we've messed up.
I've been so fortunate to know and continue to know two parents who have been peaceful in my life. They are human beings like anybody else, so we've not been perfect, but as far as parental relationships go, we've done pretty well. It's always been an open door to my sister and me.
I know it's not that way for everybody. That's a very difficult thing. Especially when our time to pass in this long hallway is so short.
My Aunt, who is also a teacher, gave me this book for Christmas. I read it to my first grade music class just the other day. It was a beautiful thing. I've loved this song for years. I got to turn these pages for kids I love and watch their faces as each verse was unfolded for them.
See that little paper airplane on the cover? It flies through the whole book - through all the tough questions, "How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?" and "How many years must some people exist before they're allowed to be free?"
This paper airplane flies in front of all of those powerful words and then you open the last two pages. The kids did exactly what I hoped they would - a big, simultaneous exclamation of "Look! . . . Look at the airplanes! . . . Look how many there are now!"
So I asked, "Why are they here? What are they for? Why are they special?"
All kinds of answers sprang up instantly - "It's the answers! The answers are written on the airplanes!" and "I bet those kids in the book are chasing the answers!"
So I had to ask, "What are the answers for? What questions are they answering?"
This is the best part. My kids said things like, "How can people be free?" and "How can people get along with each other?" and "How many ears do we need to hear what other people are saying?"
Yeah. 1st graders said that stuff. You want truth? Go talk to some little kids. You might not always like what they say, but they'll be honest with you.
I drove home not long after that class thinking, "I wish half the grownups I knew could have been in that room with me today."
You see, I know my share of broken grownup relationships. We all do. If we have been fortunate enough to have good relationships with our parents, then maybe it is a sibling or a grandparent, a close friend, or even a spouse. We know what it's like to be in this short "grownup" part of life and to wonder, "How can we possibly get past this obstacle?"
One of the most stubborn people I know is also one of the great loves of my life. One of those people who, from the time I was very young, could look on loved ones with complete adoration, and also could share words so harsh you wanted to run and hide. A paradox of a person.
We all know a few of those. And we've all been one of those at least once in our lives. Probably more, if we're honest. "Getting along" doesn't come easily to human beings. Especially grownup human beings.
Over the course of my life I've heard people talk about the "age of accountability" a lot. Several of my own close ones have had to grapple with the realization that at a certain point we don't get to blame anymore - we are where we are . . . even if we got there in part because someone was unfair to us when we were young . . . or someone didn't have their act together when they should have been taking care of us. At a certain point the obstacle will either take us down or we will find a way to be ourselves and be where we are.
Our time is short and our words are powerful.
We have the rare opportunity to forgive.
So we are walking down this long hallway and those questions are pushing us forward - the ones from the Dylan song. How many roads must a man walk down? How many ears do we need before we can hear? How long do we exist until we're free? How many wars are enough wars? How many deaths are enough deaths?
That paper airplane is in front of us. And if we're very lucky, we'll brush past our loved ones in this long hallway, all of us chasing these paper airplanes in different directions, and we'll catch an answer at the same time.
I've seen it happen.
I've seen people I love who have carried a burden belonging to someone else, someone who has gone before them. And they have managed to catch hold of one of those answers at just the right time . . . and they have uttered the words that free us.
I wanted to have a music video up and ready for this. We have the footage, but Robbie (husband and editor extraordinaire) is working a lot right now and we've been busy getting ready for baby T. So I just have the audio for you right now.
The song at the end is a super old folk/popular tune. One of my loved ones sings it for one of my other loved ones. It reminds me that beautiful things can come from people who struggle to find good in life. Love can look out from the eyes of people who have uttered words of hate. All people are riddled with things they wish they hadn't said or done. And all people are capable of allowing love to shine through them.
That's the answer that we're looking for.
Hey - if you know Jesus, you already knew that. You already knew that people who aren't perfect are all people. You already knew that Love came to find all people in the middle of all messes. You already knew that all things were possible. All things are possible.
So now we get to choose. Do we catch an answer and allow it to change us . . . or do we walk down the hallway without noticing who it is that we pass?