On war and football

My facebook feed is filled with news of football. The BBC is filled with news of war. Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame; Gaza, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And of course my first instinct is to decry the ignorance of the American public, and to feel guilty for considering my day productive when I haven’t given a thought to Gaza or, really, anyone besides myself. All our middle-class Saturday joys feel so pedestrian next to such colossal grief.

But then again, what were any of us supposed to do today? There is a time for feeling the weight of responsibility to the world; but maybe this particular Saturday isn’t it. Perhaps it would have been a heinous negation of a gift to sit around feeling sad right in the middle of fleeting football season – because, after all, what else is there to want for the world? Chex mix and conversation and touchdown shouts with friends and family, gifts indeed; there will be books and dancing and football in the kingdom of heaven.

To reconcile these two – to discern the time for laughter and the time for mourning – takes more wisdom than I have. All I can really do is put more words to this state of affairs. When you major in theology there is this phrase you hear a hundred times, and I should be tired of it but I never will be. I feel like I can carry my hope and longing and gratitude all in this six-word phrase when I borrow this description of life on Earth: here we live in “the already and the not yet”.

Already life is here, abundant, amidst French onion dip and fight songs. But not yet are we absolved of the charge to make this world better. Already Christ in his extravagant grace gives us permission to take a nap; but not yet does the world know peace. Already, Eucharist, a taste; not yet, the wedding, the feast.

Maybe all we can do is stay resolutely here, dwell courageously in this tension. It’s all too tempting to pretend everything is fine, ignoring the suffering we can’t see. But it’s also too easy to get harried and discouraged over all that remains to be redeemed, forgetting how much beauty God surrounds us with every day. Neither will this do.

Because God does want us to love life; this I believe with all my heart. What a relief to know it is not my responsibility to resolve this tension in the end. I am always forgetting that God, too, waits for a feast. Only God is big enough to encompass all the wondrous everyday joy of football season next to the incalculable tragedy of the bombs; only God need not fear time; and only God holds all together in the shadow land of the already and the not yet.

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4 Comments

  1. Morgan Guyton

     /  November 18, 2012

    I was at a wedding yesterday. It was very surreal. My twitter feed has a lot of people from Gaza reporting live. So I was surrounded by luxury while my cellphone was talking about kids blowing up. I agree with you but it’s hard for me to disengage. I think if there weren’t a massive misinformation campaign, then I wouldn’t feel a prophetic duty. Everyone is called differently.

    Reply
    • Absolutely; I wouldn’t want any of us to disengage, and am grateful to the prophets preventing that. On balance, it probably is easier to err on the side of ignoring what is not and “not yet”.

      I think we all live in a similar/related tension between what we can and cannot take responsibility for. I trust that in another time, I will be called to action and you to rest. Thank you for acting on your call for this time.

      Reply
  2. the already and the not yet

    That just changed the way I look at the world a little bit. Thank you.

    Reply
    • I should probably try to find out where it originated but theologians throw it around uncited all the time. I felt the same way when I first heard it.

      Reply

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