“Take it to the wall” is a phrase from the theater community I worked with last summer. What we meant was that when a youngster was being obnoxious, disrupting the flow of camp, or really challenging us staffers in whatever way (and oh did they have ways), we challenged ourselves to not disengage from them. We challenged ourselves to keep loving them and working with them beyond where we felt at the end of our ropes, and then beyond again. To gather as a staff to debrief, process, and together keep loving the camper all the way through everything, all the way “to the wall.”
Difficult things are often the most educational things. There is great learning opportunity in feeling worn down and tired, especially if I ask myself lots of questions.
My visiting sister commented on a quote in my bedroom, one that I posted recently. The page says “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West). The words are written in black sharpie, with red barbed-wire-like accents. I remember feeling angry when I posted it on the wall. Frustrated at how I had thus far failed to articulate to my housemates the crux of my faith, that love be followed to the wall.
As a house, here in Atlanta, we have been gathering to see how far we can push love. We are stepping on each others toes, pushing each others boundaries, and when we have time, getting into important conversations. “The wall” of loving the world is in a different place for everyone, we all have our own processes of loving the world.
I choose today to not go to meeting in order to catch some desperately needed alone time to figure out what’s going on in me. I want us to do more. I know that we are more capable of investing in justice in our daily living and eating. I also know that to me it is a consequence of living my faith. To see us invest as a faith community in factory meat industries and abusive labor situations breaks my heart. I see it as being just as hypocritical as the high & mighty Churches that I struggle so much with. Is one of the gifts I bring to our community, the gift of personal struggle made public? The gift of pushing us?
I was raised as a polite person; I am very good at reading people’s energies and giving them what I think they want. I am an unfortunately practiced people pleaser. It can be useful, but more often detrimental. I’m not accustomed to being the person that makes the whole community fidget uncomfortably, or who brazenly pisses people off. It may involve anguish as well, but only a process that moves forward in love can have a loving product. My question for myself then in this time of learning is this: how can I push my community further, in love?