how to navigate & hold on to love through a divided world: of bundles & branches & bridges & the broken way of being love

When we were kids, we went to the woods.

Went with my dad in his worn Wranglers, went and cut up wood for the coming winter, chopped and split and stacked maple for the coming cold.

And when at the end of the day, when the greying twilight settled in, thick and quiet and gentle, Dad, he’d ask us to gather up the flurry of tree limbs, the brush, the sticks, and the three of us kids, we’d stand there with bundles of branches, and Dad, he’d dare us:

Go ahead — try to break your bundle of sticks with your hands.

And it couldn’t be done.

Then Dad walked over to my brother and pulled out a random twig from my brother’s bundle of branches — and snapped it like a matchstick between his fingers.

He’d turned and looked into the face of us three kids and he said it like he didn’t want one of us to ever forget:

What’s bound together can’t be broken.

When we let ourselves get pulled apart — then we can be broken apart.

The dark wants to divide, because what is severable is vulnerable.

What is deliberately separable is painfully vulnerable. Just ask Adam and Eve.

I knew what my Dad was saying in the woods:

Though people may not hold the same opinions — they can still hold on to each other.

People may not see eye to eye — but there’s always a way to still walk hand in hand.

Christians need to be most careful with words — if we are the most Christ-full.

The Body of Christ may have a thousand different opinions, a thousand fractions and divisions and circles. But there’s not one of us that isn’t broken in some way.

And acknowledging our own brokenness is what makes high walls between people crumble.

Because it turns out — that when you know you are broken – it’s always your pointing finger that is broken.

You can’t point at anyone else anymore as the only sinner.

Brokenness breaks us from our need to be “right” and breaks us open to our need to extend the grace we have been given.

I went back to the woods the other day, hurting over a broken-hearted world, thinking about how one fence had been torn down by His love, and how I could tear down another fence and love a sister, a person, a family, a people, different than me, how He can give you eyes to see and it’s like you can read the writing right there on all the walls between all of us:

Obedience to the law of Love is the most expedient way to preach the gospel.

What does God do but live the law of love: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

God loves while we sin and love is what makes God the most potent of all.

Love is the the most radically subversive activism of all, the only thing that ever changed any one.

We never have to be afraid to love.

Love never negates truth. Because love never silences Truth.

Love is the language of Truth and grace is the dialect of God and Truth is only understandable if spoken with understanding love.

And unity doesn’t mean that we paper over our differences. It means we open the papers of His Word and dialogue, not open fire and destroy each other.

It could happen like this: We don’t have to confuse unity with unanimity.

God’s people may not have unanimity on everything,
but we must have definite unity in everything,
if we’re ever to have deep credibility through everything.

There may be tension between believers on how to practice our faith – but it is the tension of two people hanging fiercely on to each other, like the tension of a bridge, that the Gospel might go forth into all the world.

If we let go of each other — the Gospel goes nowhere.

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose…

Is Christ divided?”  ~1 Cor 1:10–14

Is Christ divided?

That’s how the dark tries to divide: If you disagree with someone on one point – then you must disdain or dismiss them entirely.

And if you acknowledge or affirm someone – then you must agree with them entirely. This is a lie. Break it.

Having Christian convictions can’t ever negate having Christ’s compassion.

I stood in the woods and witnessed the reaching of the trees toward each other. This can be done: We could start reaching out to someone of a different way of thinking, a different political leaning, a different nationality, a different culture, a different orientation, a different skin color – a different religion.

We could invite the other and the different to come break bread — so that there can be a breaking down of walls.

We could be Peacemakers and Rift Menders, the ones who know that the brokenness of humility is the secret to community and the harshness of pride is what builds lines of division.

We could be the ones who know that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal.5:6)

Only those who love, are sent by Christ. Without love — Christ didn’t send you.

I breathe deep in the woods. Remember to keep calm and that is all.

Living angry is spiritual death.

“And real life is about really loving the everyday, different, beautiful people wherever our feet land, to those near us and sitting across from us and streaming by us and those in need far arom us.

And this is the thing to hear everywhere: no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone’s just asking if they can be loved.” [~ excerpt from The Broken Way].

Remember to keep calm and remember that “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone’s just asking if they can be loved.”

In the woods, the trees keep reaching out — the limbs of very different trees touching.

There is always a way forward that finds a way to love.

People of the Cross — always believe there are bridges that make a way across.

And I watch how all throughout the woods, the branches of the trees  protect each other from the coming winds —

how even the winds grow quiet in here, the trees all standing close together.


Related: a brave and beautiful way to keep on loving, no matter how the winds blow