I have spent far too many days living in the red. Not so much the financial red, though I’ve lived there, too. I’m talking about lifestyle red. Living on the extended credit of my body, mind, and spirit. I believe I may actually become addicted to this pattern of over-drawing from this account and actually crave the feeling of wondering if I can escape the bounce. We all have those moments of over-drawing when we need to transfer funds. I get that. I, however, seem to continually find myself back living in this space. I know it by transferring too many funds from my exercise account, my time with spouse account, my time to prepare health meals, my ability to be fully present with family and friends account into my obsessing, perfecting, and over-functioning for others accounts. (Usually, these funds support my professional self. Usually, these funds yield higher interest rates when I transfer time. Usually, I receive nice dividends for perfection and obsession. You can see how this could become addictive.) So, as we move into the second week of the government shut-down, and far too many US citizens live and will live financially in the red, I can’t help but ponder our communal addiction to “red living.”
The sequester, shutdown, and future default certainly will increase the likelihood of financial red living. But the behavior patterns of our elected leaders also seem to be red living in a different way. This says nothing of what the average student’s schedule looks like between academics, athletics, and other extra-curriculars. The average parent’s planner. The average professional’s agenda. Do more with less, and if you’re running low, simply get a line of credit. What happens when there isn’t another line of credit offered?
Many speculate what will occur if we crash through the debt ceiling and plummet into default. I wonder if there’s a debt ceiling for communal “red living” and what awaits us if we default.
I can’t believe I’m approaching my one-year anniversary at Leadership Now. Is it possible that a whole year passed? Is it possible that only a year passed? Similar to my first year of teaching, my first year in ministry felt at times like walking through a beautiful field. A field filled with blooming flowers and tall grasses. A field fraught with hidden divots and holes. And true to me, I seem to be someone that not only steps in the hole but falls head first into it. I only seem to learn from truly tumbling. Making a complete mess of myself. I must be a disciple of Christ, for like Jesus’ followers, I seem to learn not from listening and watching but from jumping in the middle of the mess and experiencing life myself. Maybe that’s why I am so attracted to the idea of the Incarnation—God in the midst of life. It seems to be the only way that I begin to grasp the lessons life and God attempt to teach.
And one of the lessons (repeated in a myriad of ways) of this first year has been a lesson in detachment. Originally a scary concept for me—as I have been known to live in the world of my head—this is a different kind of detachment. Not the kind of escapism, intellectualism, or dissociation. Rather an incarnational detachment. The recognition of my need to step back and get out of my own way. The need to be still, so I could know God. The need to truly see how fragile and flawed we human beings are—and most notably to realize that–though I seem to disparage this—I, too, am one of these human beings.
Whether recognizing my powerlessness with a boyfriend’s substance additions, with patients’ ailments and deaths, with the conflicts and struggles of the church, and with my own families chaos, this year challenged me to live what I claim to believe: Christ redeems and saves (not me). Seeing all of this, feeling all of this, truly taking it in. Now that has been the lesson of detachment. And the part I find most amazing is that in this detaching, I feel a freedom to chose to speak or be silent, to sit or stand. I start to release the pressure of perfection and instead seek God.