momentary relationships


i’m thinking of the man in his small car, seats packed to the roof with stuff, the dashboard sprinkled with papers and maps.  i’m thinking of waiting for the light to change and looking over at him.  he takes a bite of an apple, the pure and simple form of nourishment, and my heart ached.  i didn’t know why.

i’m thinking about the woman i just met…though we never exchanged names or any other information about ourselves.  our relationship was short, as long as it took for me to take the clothes hanging from her arm to put on the counter during my time working at the thrift shop.  it was hot inside and she was of substantial size and old.  but the moment my hand brushed her arm i had to resist the urge to dive in for a full frontal embrace.  her skin was flower petal soft and cool.  just like my oma’s.

i’m thinking about the fed ex delivery man who came to my door last night.  he’s worn face and huge smile thanking me for being home.  “it’s my job to make sure the packages get to the people.  if they’re not home, i can’t do my job.  but it’s my job to do my job, so i’ll keep coming back.”  smiles and, no exaggeration, a skip in his step and a jovial request to take a run through the sprinkler we had going, he went on to see who else was home.  my heart swelled.

i think of the boy i saw, fleshy pale skin on the verge of becoming a wide-shouldered, hairy teenager, walking down main street eating a cheeseburger.  he looked down at his burger, then up at the sky, then around at the cars.  he looked so vulnerable, yet sure enough of something to eat with gusto alone on the sidewalk.  my stomach did a little flip.

i think of the girl on her skateboard, her long hair pulled back into multiple braids, her belt studded with silver.  her bag slung over her body and bracelets half way up her arms.  oozing confidence and defiance all at the same time, she glided by and looked at our waiting car with a peaceful smile.

then there are more people i think of:  the thrift shopper who was buying vintage hankies so she had something “pretty to look at after work.”  she worked at mcdonald’s to which my daughter called her “lucky.”  the man who shared his long weaving of people in hopes of making a family connection with someone.  i don’t think he ever did.  the preschool girl who stared at people like she was trying to see into them…or get them to see her.

i shudder and get misty eyed when i think of them.

these momentary relationships.  they give me energy.  and in a few short visits, i can tell that is one of my favorite things about working at the thrift shop or sitting outside on main street.  it is what i love about shmoozing with the hardware store workers and the gas station woman.  not knowing each other at all, we are so kind to one another.

and sweet jesus, this makes the evil of exclusion even more vile.

i joined two other women from our church as delegates to our area conference assembly of mennonite church usa earlier this month (read more here and here).  we reflected on our time last week at church and all i’m left wondering is how long will it be until we can bridge all walls with humility and love.

reflections and quotes taken from western district conference assembly
oklahoma city, ok • july 2012


there’s the easy and the hard. the forgettable and the unforgettable. the words that make me want
to run from any institution of religion and the words that make me dizzy in love with it. the people i’ve
known my whole life and the people i don’t know who are all my brothers and sisters in the church.
there was plenty of it all.


and all of it pulls me to the pain of the exclusion that is happening. all of it pulls me to the wonderful
faith that in one blip of time we could smile in unity. all of it pulls me to the mystery of god’s hope for
heaven on earth. all of it stirs feelings of betrayal and a desperate longing for humility. all of it pulls
me to wonder what the great truth is.


while i tend to bask in the sunshine and joy energy-filled moments, i know there is value in
naming the hard moments. the times when i listened to people with faces red in anger and hands
tightened into fists. the times when my heart rate increased and my eyes narrowed in focus on the
face of someone who felt like a stranger. the times i was grateful to be holding a baby so i had an
excuse to stand. the times when betrayal felt tangible. the times when i didn’t care anymore if we
were united.


the will of god never goes against the word of god.
if you break the rules you have to pay the price.
why don’t you just leave and make your own denomination where gays can marry?
if the church allows the blessing of the “sin of homosexuality”, then we might next be
condoning other sins like murder.
i don’t understand why there is a push to have the mennonite doctrine/confession of faith,
that has been held for generations, changed.
if we sanction same-sex marriage, what’s next?  abortion?  murder?
if you don’t agree with the “rules” and “policies” in place then why not take your ministry
outside of that affiliation and perform your ministry in peace?
there are rules.  if you can’t figure them out, that’s your problem.
satan is a lion waiting to devour us.
there are good people who will never get to heaven.


and as soon as i’m ready to turn away from the wall between us that seems higher and thicker than
ever before, i commit myself to the moment told to me of holding hands with people from opposing
sides of the issues. i commit myself to the balm of these words. i commit myself the courage of these


dwell in the word.
simply being invited is enough.
can we have oneness without sameness?
all people have dignity and worth.
be subject, not obedient, to the law.
make no assumptions other than assuming the best in each other.
i danced on one foot with my joy.
yield to the unknown.
no one wants to be called “anti-inclusive.”
we are time sick.
the opposite of spirituality is the lack of zest for living.
put yourself in the story.
many people ground their inclusive perspective in the belief that gay people “can’t help it.”
would it matter if they could?  would exclusion be acceptable then?
be open, be open, be open.
be grounded in love.
patient forbearance is more than tolerance.
schisms occur when people feel that the group they signed up for has changed but they
anti-inclusive folks think that the church has changed and see themselves as
defenders/preservers of a more authentic, true, right church.
play is an activity in which we lose ourselves and track of time.
god is changing the profile of the mennonite church.
what matters is what we do with the love god has given us.
we are what we become.
when mennonites finally stepped forward on civil rights, martin luther king jr asked us,
“where were you?”  will that happen again?
the thing is:  we have to be there where god is working.
everything belongs.
many people ground their inclusive perspective in the belief that gay people “can’t help it.”
would it matter if they could?  would exclusion be acceptable then?
we are in the middle of communities that are watching everything we do.
to gain something new, something has to die.
we can be shackled to each other by the bond of peace.
someday marrying people (gay or straight) will be ho-hum stuff again. i’m really looking
forward to that. perhaps we’ll see it in our lifetimes.
let prayer catch up with thinking.  let thinking catch up with prayer.
bear with each other until, so and because jesus comes.


and taking the words from pastor johanna harader’s  blog post days after the assembly:

Instead of united in Christ, I understood that I am called to be united to Christ. That I can do.
Or at least give myself to pursuing. And if the folks at Bethel Mennonite (Inman) and the
angry man at the mic from Oklahoma and anyone else wants to also seek to be united to
Christ, then I guess we’re stuck together. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.


have mercy indeed.

5 thoughts on “momentary relationships

  1. I often wonder about people who have left a split second impression on me, by their words or their observed actions or their appearance, sometimes years later. Where are they now? What are they doing? Sometimes I wonder why they pop up in my head and why I care. I think I care because, as your post says, “we’re all stuck together” and “everything belongs.” Thanks for this great post. It really spoke to me..:


  2. it all begs the questions we discussed this morning – can we accept the blessing of mourning instead of fleeing that event that is painful, what does it mean to accept the blessing of the path of humility, can we tolerate being hungry and thirsting and acknowledge that capacity for right living is not fully given to us, what is the blessing of peacemaking when we bind our hearts to the Galilean’s side? I love the proposals that would post the beatitudes along with (instead of?) the 10 commandments. Meditating on them is my most recent bedtime activity. With grace, we stay on the path. Broken, blessed, bound together. I might need that service every other day for months.


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