This morning, as I was getting ready for church, I noticed that my hair was not being particularly cooperative. No matter what I would do, part of the hair on the left side of the head refused to stay down. Throughout the day, this was not helped by the fact that a handful of adorable small children kept on asking to ride on my shoulders and felt it necessary to play with my hair in some fashion. While I’m not always sure what other people think by such a scene of children feeling tall because they are on my shoulders, it is clear that there is a great deal of enjoyment to be found in enjoying the playful innocence of small children who feel tall when they are picked up and sit on someone’s shoulder, who gallivant around with few cares in the world and dim awareness of the efforts that others place to keep an eye on them and to keep them safe from trouble. It is for adults to be filled with cares and worries, and it is for little children to live their lives growing in godly character as well as in knowledge and competence, but if one is raising children consumed by anxiety about the world around them, then clearly their parents are doing something horribly wrong.
After leaving dinner and driving to spend the evening with some friends of mine in the far Southeast of the Portland area, where one of the members of the family fixed my car’s headlights and taillights and did a wonderful job at it, I was struck by the immensely temporary nature of life. On the one hand, for the third time since I have been in Portland I have been given the same exact illustrated history of the Civil War . Yet this is not all. At the Feast of Tabernacles we met a relative of them by marriage who struggled with a bad family situation thanks to an alcoholic husband. Her daughter, as might be readily understood, was at a young age already immensely complicated and layered, hiding whatever vulnerability existed behind a rather fierce exterior mask. Rather abruptly, we found out today that the woman had died, shockingly suddenly, given that just yesterday afternoon she had posted on her Facebook profile some beautiful pictures of flowers. And now she is no longer living, leaving her husband a widower, and making it unclear who will raise her sullen and clearly deeply wounded daughter. Knowing how my own childhood deeply shaped the man I have become, I grieve when I see children suffer so deeply, deeply enough that they do not believe others can stand to see the truth about them and still be considerate about their feelings and see them as God made them to be, and not as the scarred and broken beings they may have become.
Even more so than most days, today was a day filled with vexing complexity. I spent much of my day at church teaching children about Cain and Abel, about the murderous hostility that can exist between estranged siblings, about the fact that God’s longsuffering and patience in allowing people the time and space to repent and seek His ways and seek a relationship with Him is confused with absence or weakness, and how often that is the case in humanity as well, where there seems like no way we can act that will not be twisted or misunderstood. Yet my presence teaching the young children attracted the notice of those at services when my knowledge of esoteric trivia, like the philosophers of the French Revolution, was wanted in services and my absence was noted publicly. This led to a lot of humorous questions that at first did not make sense, as people asked me questions about what grade/age range of children I was teaching without my knowing why there was a sudden surge of curiosity in my Sabbath School activities, which had not attracted a great deal of notice hitherto.
Not only this, but today was filled with some vexing complexities in terms of my action. In choir, I was the only tenor, making practice involve some solos on my part, which appeared to have drawn more attention to myself than I really wanted. Then, in the context of working on some writing for the variety show, I was placed in a context that requires a great deal of sensitivity that allows a point to be made but has to be done in such a way that does not bring greater difficulties upon me and upon others. We live in contexts and a world where we do not act merely for ourselves and only involving ourselves, but we act in a world where our behavior is continually involved with others. Sometimes we spend our time seeking to make life more enjoyable and pleasant for others. Sometimes we face the tension between various longings that complicate our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves involved in complicated situations where we know we must act or refrain ourselves from acting, but we do not fully know the seriousness of what we are involved in, or what the end will truly look like. Yet we must be both brave and kind, standing up for what is right without stepping over other people in the process. Oh, that we might be both brave and good, and make the most of the time that we are given.
 See, for example: