King: Buying the field even when it’s idiotic
Even more unsettling than usual: the stories in the Feb. 25 New York Times. There is Srinivas Kuchibhotia, an Indian immigrant and his friend shot in a Kansas bar by a man who wants them out of “his” U.S. A president promises “to throw undocumented immigrants ‘the hell out of the country.’ ”
The White House door slams on media labeled “the enemy of the people” and pronounced guilty of promoting fake news. “Sweden, nation of open arms, rethinks immigration,” says a headline. “All across Central Europe, populist outsiders are popping up,” reports another. Scandal “ensnares wife of Japanese premier” as a Japanese school fights worries of Korean or Chinese influence and blames foreigners “who exist in our country with the looks of Japanese people.”
How to live in these times? Whatever our politics, we need hope. This reminds me of Old Testament prophet Jeremiah buying a field (Jer. 32:1-15, 42-44) and of my wife, Joan, inspiring our field buying.
Jeremiah’s country is crumbling. Yet he imagines a day when again fields will be bought and sold. The “word of the Lord” has told Jeremiah to buy a field not because it makes sense now but because it will someday. His field will signal living not just in siege but in the time beyond, when once more daily routines, even real estate transactions, nurture human flourishing.
Then our field: I stonewalled Joan’s every effort to update our house except when things rotted away. Finally washer and dryer rotted. We got new ones. Installers tried to push the washer into the laundry room. Door too narrow. So how did the broken washer get in?
Ah: We had bought the house with washer installed after prior owners had blocked a wider door from the garage with a fuel tank.
I am mad. Especially as the impatient installers threaten to leave. Angrily I get tools to tear out studs and jam the washer through. Joan is alarmed. Michael Michael Michael. What if that’s load bearing? I don’t care. The washer’s going in.
Joan tries again. Michael: what if we get Steve to look at it? Steve had helped with prior rotting-away repairs. No. I will fix this. Now.
Michael. . . .
I tear off drywall. The stud situation is complicated. I wilt. OK. Steve.
This was historic. I rarely was willing to pay for help. But I had met my match in those studs and my wife’s vision. This changed our lives. To get that washer in we had to make repairs and renovations throughout the laundry room. This led to such a lovely outcome that I was willing to try renovations I’d resisted forever.
We realized relatives with disabilities could barely get in our house and that we ourselves were old enough to imagine not getting in. We opened ourselves to dreams of hospitality for others, ourselves, who we wanted to be and what we wanted to offer through our home as we aged. We developed a vision for home as physically and spiritually welcoming, of home as a retreat in which to share journeys of heart and soul not only with each other but also whomever God brought us.
As I read those headlines, I was in what Joan’s insistence on an SOS to Steve had turned into our version of Jeremiah’s field. Putting in the washer had become a down payment on a future in which, both personally and nationally, we once more open the doors of home.
Michael A. King is dean of Eastern Mennonite University’s seminary and graduate programs and owner of Cascadia Publishing House LLC.
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