Who We Are
The other day I was listening to a song that made me think of a Peanuts comic that I'd read decades ago, and then the whole train of thought left the station and sped off without me. Until today. Sometimes it works like that, and it takes me a couple of days to catch up on foot.
But this morning I finally caught up with it, and I got to thinking about the song, and the comic again, which led me to what I'm writing today. I've learned over the years of doing this that when an idea lets me catch it, I need to pay attention.
This past year has brought out the worst in a lot of us.
I know that I've had more than my share of disappointments when it comes to the things that friends and loved ones have posted on social media this past year.
Add to that the constant reporting of all of the negative behavior, comments, and downright awful actions of people all across our country, and you discover just how easy it is to begin to lose faith in people.
When I was a kid, I had a collection of Charles Schultz beloved Peanuts cartoons that I read and re-read. There was one comic in particular that I remember well, and it came to mind as I thought of all this. It's just one panel with Linus shouting the following line: "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand!"
I'm thinking that's a line that more than a few of us resonate with right now.
But if we are to believe that each person on the face of this earth is an Image Bearer of the Divine, as the Scripture so clearly states... what are we to do about this? How do we find ways to love one another, when it sometimes feels like so many of us are burying God's image so far below the surface it can't really be seen?
I don't have all the answers, but the song that I was listening to the other day gave me a hint of it.
It was by the band Nothing More, which is one of my favorite hard rock bands at the moment. I have an affinity for hard rock music---always have. Not everyone is into crunching guitars, screaming singers, and musical mayhem, but that's kind of my jam, especially these days.
Nothing More's album The Stories We Tell Ourselves is nothing sort of brilliant, in my opinion. Even though it was written three years before the pandemic, it was incredibly prescient. I was particularly taken with the song "Who We Are," which reflects on how easy it is to lose faith in humanity, especially during times of deep division.
But then the lyrics keep shifting with the chorus, which counters with a relentlessly positive statement about the light that is within all of us... somewhere. Here are the lines that struck me:
It's who we are, that keeps me believing
There's something here bigger than ourselves
If I'm wrong, then why am I still feeling?
Who we are keeps me believing.
Honestly, as I'm sitting here reading those lines, I feel kind of choked up by the hopeful innocence of their meaning. "If I'm wrong, then why am I still feeling?" the singer asks a question that hits me right in the gut.
In other words, "If there is something in me that still believes this... something that keeps hanging on to the idea that there is goodness in the world... something that feels like hope... like faith... like love... something that still believes God is with us... then it must also be in others."
The difficult bit for all of us is finding the grace to see past all of the ways that the people we are struggling to love often hide God's image or deny it altogether. It's not easy to find that Divine imprint sometimes, to be sure.
And truth be told... we sometimes struggle to see it in ourselves.
But if you are feeling even a tentative, faint feeling of hope that there might be a better world ahead of us... if you catch glimpses of goodness in even the people who have disappointed you... if you feel like God isn't quite done with all of this yet...
Hang on to that feeling. It's one of the truest you will ever feel because it comes from that place deep inside you where the Spirit of the eternal, universal Christ is at work to enliven you, renew you and lead you forward to best and brightest self.