Over time, I’ve changed my mind about lots of things: broccoli, stinky cheeses, Texas, being seen in public wearing sweatpants. But today’s Forward Day by Day meditation gave me pause: “How many of us have ever been challenged to change our minds about what the kingdom of God means, or who it might include? What is it that resonated with you so much that it changed the way you saw yourself and the world? Or maybe you rejected the idea of changing your mind. If so, why? Was there something uncomfortable about it? Jesus reaches out in love and compassion, even toward challenging people or ideas. How will you reach out?”
As a religiously unschooled younger person, the Kingdom of God meant a Heaven where angels endlessly sang and played lutes while drifting about on fluffy clouds, it always smelled like baking bread, and all my loved ones wearing shiny new angel’s wings would be there on his or her own fluffy cloud, and we’d all sort of float around praising God and being happy.
Maybe we’d be sent to meddle in the affairs of the living from time to time, like Nicolas Cage and Andre Braugher defusing a liquor store robbery in the movie City of Angels.
It has been a revolution in thinking that the Kingdom referred to might be right here, right now, and that I have a role to play in creating it, a seismic shift in my thinking that I must include in my kingdom my childhood bullies, lazy colleagues, bad bosses, friends and family who used, betrayed, or abandoned me, and maybe even History’s bad guys, like Hitler or Osama bin Laden.
Changing my mind is not always comfortable, but life without change is no life at all, and today’s scripture suggests that even Jesus changes his mind about the audience for his message (Matthew 15:21-28). Age and experience have taught me that opposing thoughts can peacefully coexist without my head exploding. I’ve learned the peace of accepting I can’t necessarily change someone or something, but I can pray for them, I can pray for my own patience, tolerance, and acceptance. Also, this from Matthew 7: ” Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Yikes! That certainly puts an ugly spin on my judgiest of judgy notions.
The discomfort comes in the continual, vigilant work it takes to keep an open mind about my fellow man. With astounding speed come the unkind epithets toward the folks with full shopping carts in the Express checkout at the store, the drivers who cut me off without a turn signal used or a glance in the rear view mirror, the injuries unthinkingly inflicted by my fellow man. It’s so much easier to mentally curse them; it is so much harder to consider their lives might be as busy and complicated as mine, that any offense given is as thoughtless as my own many, many acts of idiocy and unthinking rudeness. It’s much harder to consider that it is my job as a Christian to be an agent of change within the world, if only my tiny corner of it.
But with vigilance comes the peace of the mental shake of the head at the full cart in the Express lane, giving me room to think, she must be in a huge rush – maybe she is a working mother just like I was; maybe that driver is late for an appointment; maybe that person has never experienced courtesy and thus, has no idea how to extend it.
I no longer expect God’s Kingdom to have angels on clouds playing lutes; I don’t know what I expect on the other side and God willing, it will be a long, long time before I find out for sure. I am open to it being awesome beyond my current capacity to understand. But the practice of working on the Kingdom of God existing in my own head, by seeing Him in the faces around me, by extending a bit of grace to those I encounter, right here, right now, is my introvert’s way of reaching out. I suppose I live in the hope that my little bits of grace shown can make a difference, like a pebble dropped into an ocean, sending ripples across time and space with no end.