When you’re young and idealistic, you believe anything is possible. But the longer you stick around on this planet, the more disappointments you experience. Your parents disappoint you. The church disappoints you. The government disappoints you. And your childish idealism seems rather foolish.
As I was coming of age, one of our presidents was shot and killed. The next one dropped bombs on North Viet Nam so he could prove to his opponents that he was tough and win an election. And then there was Nixon. Uff da!
I learned not to expect much of politicians. In fact, I became very cynical about life in general. It’s safer to live that way; the cynic is never disappointed. But the thing is, deep down inside me there remained this starry-eyed young woman who still wanted to believe things could change. Like many of my generation, I was a closeted idealist.
Have you noticed how every once in a while something happens in our world that seems to shift everything we thought to be true? Just when we think things will never change, they do. Remember when President Reagan demanded that the Berlin Wall come down and we all said, “Yeah right. Like that’s going to happen”? And then, it seems like overnight, the wall did fall, along with communism in Western Europe. There have been other seismic shifts like that in the world that I’ve seen in my lifetime, too. Like the Arab Spring going on right now. I watch the events unfolding in the Middle East in disbelief; I never imagined any of it was within the realm of possibility.
For a long time, the people in my congregation struggled with the fact that our denomination refused to accept gay and lesbian people as full participants in the life of the church. There were times when we were so discouraged that we wanted to give up the fight. I was one who believed change was a long time coming and it probably wouldn’t happen until I was an old biddy using a walker to get around. And yet, after years of struggle, the ELCA actually changed its mind. Three years later, I’m still amazed. And I’m so glad that I was wrong in my cynical assessment of the situation. Things can change.
Of course, as God’s people, that’s something we already know. The Book tells us: “With God all things are possible.” Our God is not a status-quo God, but a God of transformation.
Sometimes it takes a radical event in the world around us to remind us that it’s possible for things to change. When that happens, our hope is renewed. We’re freed of the cynicism that enslaves us. And we’re reminded that we can dare to be the people God calls us to be.
There is a Franciscan benediction that expresses this call to us so well:
God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.