The Revelator

So here I sit at the Dunn Brothers, where, little more than two years ago, I also sat not to write and reflect as I am now, but to prepare. Much was different then. We were visiting from OH, where we still owned our home and couldn’t imagine any reality in which we could sell it without much pain (which, it turns out, was a reality we lived through to finally do so). I weighed about fifty pounds less, and I was here at Dunn Brothers then to get ready for a video interview for a job back in OH that I was hopeful about. It would have been a promotion and would have meant a new challenge for me in the organization I had already given 5+ years to. We enjoyed getting out here to MN when we could and always were amazed at all the area continued to have to offer amidst all the ways it kept changing, but our ties to OH still felt strong and though I would loved having a coffee shop like this close to home, I couldn’t quite imagine living here.

Today, of course, I do. This coffee shop is now just a few blocks from home. Indeed, much has changed. I’ll get to writing about some of those perhaps more significant changes later, but for now, allow me to discuss what hasn’t. As we’ve learned all too well from all these cross country moves, including the ones that meant some sort of homecoming, we know very well that you “can’t go home again.” We know too that while a change of scenery can disrupt unhealthy routines and provide an opening to create new, more healthy, and more sustainable ones, whatever brokenness inside us that led to the development of those unhealthy routines will remain. Thus, it’s vital that we give every effort to making whatever change we hope to, or those old patterns will reset and retrench, perhaps with a different view outside the window. In other words, old habits die hard, and we bring our problems with us wherever we go.

Today I’m faced with an old, stubborn problem. Someone’s mad at me, for something I may or (as I recall) may not have done 20 years ago. This person is talking about it to others, but not to me, and their filter/lens is giving them cause to take offense at present actions on my part that have little or nothing to do with them. Moreover, as this person is talking about their anger at me with others, but not me, I’m left with little recourse for resolution without confronting them, which I’m told is inadvisable at this time. What, then, am I to do?

I’ve been afforded all too many opportunities throughout my adult life and especially over the past year to learn how to be “okay” with others’ (“mis-,” from my perspective)perception of me. I’ve had opportunity to receive the judgment of others, sometimes delivered angrily and with vitriol, and learn what can be from it while rejecting the impulse to internalize it and loathe myself as much, apparently, as some others do. I’ve been subjected to genuine assault on my character and challenged to respond not in kind, but with, well, character. I fear I have largely failed to do so. Is that, too, a learning experience? Have I learned anything?

Regardless, I’m left to wonder, still, at the ripe old age of 40, who I am. Am I a better-than-average student? A voracious reader? A basketball player? More recently but not of late, a runner? Relatedly, a fat guy? A miracle weight loss guy? A diet yo-yo-er? Am I someone with theological training who puts it to use from time to time? A preacher and church leader? A writer? Am I a “stand-up” guy, someone of whom someone would say, as they once did, “I’ve been watching you, and you’re all right”? Or am I someone about whom it could be said, as it once was, that, “on account of me Gentiles curse God”? Am I someone who would try to tear apart others and who could say something the effect of which was to “hurt, cut, divide and separate” people? Am I all these things and more?

Probably. So what?

Here’s the one thought I have now, which I’m holding on to with all my might: the present person who’s been holding on to anger directed at me apparently for 20 years is clearly in a place of hurt and has been living there all this time. Out of that hurt, this person is lashing out now, perhaps seeking to cause me pain. I do feel hurt myself, but as always, I have a choice. I can live in my own pain and find myself in a situation very similar to my accuser, or I can release it and try to move on. If I desire vindication, it will not come through retaliation, which will bind me to my accuser in his place of suffering. I myself have suffered enough, in my own privileged way, and so I choose to walk away, to be free. Or at least I hope to.

Through it all, I’m reminded of one of my favorite songs, by one of my favorite artists, Gillian Welch‘s Revelator, from Time (the Revelator). It begins:

Darling remember when you come to me
I’m a pretender; I’m not what I’m suppose to be
But who could know if I’m a traitor?
Time’s the revelator, the revelator

It is, indeed. I guess time will tell about me too.

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