Laying beside my four year old tonight, I basked in the calming holy presence that only seems to exist as a halo around a sleeping child. I prayed for the Lord to bless and protect my youngest sweet son, I thought of how he was part of my husband and me. He is his mother and father reborn, holy and pure again, as we once were when we were children. In some ways, our entire purpose on this Earth is to become like children again; to peel off the cynicism and mendacity that collects after years of living in a fallen world. And yet as parents, we are also the greatest in the home and the servants of all. We are the greatest, and the least; the most powerful and the most fallen.
There are so many paradoxes. A friend of mine posted about the paradox of the artist who must foster the confidence to exercise the creative process anew each time not knowing whether the outcome will have any value. Along with the confidence that spurs the creative project, the artist must also have the humility to learn from the art and the many failures that precede success.
Our family watched a show the other day called, “Knives Out” which was about a very dysfunctional family with a very wealthy man at the head. The sons and daughters of the wealthy man had become entitled, wasteful, and prideful. He decided to will his fortune to his housekeeper and nurse, a poor hispanic woman with a family of illegal aliens to support. The entire movie was fascinating with a star studded cast and many allusions to current events. The thing that occurred to me is how bad money can be for a family. It creates unhealthy patterns of enmeshment. I noticed the same dysfunctional patterns as I read Mary Trump’s book about her family. The family becomes accustomed to the wealth and then they can’t live without it. Instead of making a life for themselves on their own terms, the family becomes dependent on the one who controls the money.
We had a disaster happen in our garden this year. We added some liquid fertilizer to several plants. Although the liquid was teeming with beneficial nutrients, the concentration was far too high. It burned the roots and killed several of my most treasured plants. The concentration of wealth in a family seems to me to have similar consequences. When wealth is concentrated in a small area, it becomes poisonous. It is better in a garden for the fertilizer to be distributed fairly evenly throughout all the plants. Likewise, in a society, when wealth is concentrated into a small segment of the population, it causes problems, not only for those who lack the necessary resources, but to the families of those who have too much.
I couldn’t help but think of the reasoning of the rich man who left his fortune to a stranger to save his family, and wonder what would become of the woman who inherited the money. Would her family become similarly entitled and dysfunctional? Would she eventually give the money away to save them? Would the inheritance become a blessing or a curse for her? The movie never said.
The problem of the fair distribution of resources has been one of the fundamental quandaries of the past two centuries as we have experimented with different forms of government around the globe. Communism, socialism, and capitalism along with various combinations have competed for dominance on the world stage. None of them have managed to solve the problems of fundamental inequalities that arise in our fallen world. Concentrations of the world’s resources pile up in the homes and families of the privileged and wealthy, while the less fortunate scrape to get by. Instead of acknowledging our failures as modern mankind to solve these ancient problems, we play the blame game shaming those that advocate for the opposing brand of failed solutions. It is in this sad state that we approach the coming presidential election in the midst of a national public health crisis the likes of which is unparalleled in my lifetime.
Carl Jung taught that a society is only as strong as the individuals that comprise it. He argued that individual integrity and connection with divinity was the only way to save mankind from himself; his own worst enemy. The state will not save us from ourselves. Only Christ can redeem fallen man, and he does it one by one, not collectively. Whatever the results of this election, our societal problems will remain until as individuals, we come unto Him who is Mighty to Save.
But that is a paradox, isn’t it? There are no collective solutions that will fix our broken; no populist leader who will deliver us to the promised land with a tax cut or a social program. We as individuals have to work out our salvation one by one. And so the pandemic has forced many of us into our homes either because of unemployment or remote work. We have been compelled to spend more time with our little children, seeing ourselves in their innocent eyes; seeing the future of ourselves in their future. I wonder if that wasn’t part of God’s plan in sending us this particular plague. Was he trying to tell us to stop running around stimulating the economy and focus on our homes and families; to stop frantically searching for ourselves in the next promotion or the next corporate fad or the next political rally? To find ourselves in the eyes of the next generation? To see ourselves in their innocent halo of purity? To realize that the destination is coming back to the beginning again?
As the world bumps along ever more chaotically into this decade, I struggle to find purpose and meaning. Some days it feels as though I have expired my supply of spiritual strength and can’t do this another minute. Other times like today, it makes a kind of paradoxical sense. I pray that all those who read this will feel a measure of peace; that the spirit of Him who knows all things will bring you comfort in your time of grief. I pray the Lord of all will have mercy on all of his children who suffer in this moment and give us relief.