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Lines: Sabbatical Reflection #1

There are lines EVERYWHERE. Have you ever stopped and noticed all the lines we bump into, cross over, build, ignore, celebrate, long for, need? For the past five weeks I have been super aware of lines.

My sabbatical adventure had me on the highways and byways. I covered over 1500 miles from Georgia to Virginia. There were a lot of these kinds of lines.

Whether I was at the beach or in the mountains, in the cities or by a baseball field. Lines were popping out at me from every direction.

I started to think about God and what kind of lines God draws. Here are a few that I found.

What I noticed is that God’s lines generally aren’t straight. The edges are softer. These divine lines bend and curve so that a bit of grace is in the division. A little more here, a little less over there. God’s lines seem not so intent on separating but in creating a big picture of beauty and life.

Lines were everywhere around me, and it wasn’t just in what I was seeing. Every author from my sabbatical book list offered a caution: be careful where you draw up a line of division. Our lines don’t always look like God’s lines. When we were all toddlers, binary thinking was helpful. It was how we started to learn and grow; it kept us safe: hot/cold, yes/no, on/off, in/out. But as our language and thinking develop, we realize there are many levels of temperature, and often there are a lot more maybes than clear yes and nos. Certainly our churches deserve more than preschool logic when it comes to pursuing the dreams and hope of God. In A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren pointed out the ways the modern Christian faith is infused with Greek dualism and Roman imperialism. He offers examples of how the church long ago assumed the habits and thinking of the Roman Empire when it became the religion of Constantine and how that binary, imperial lens makes it harder for us to understand the teachings and life of an itinerant rabbi wandering Palestine named Jesus. McLaren even draws a few line diagrams to illustrate his point. God’s grace is bigger and broader than any of the “either/or” situations that we think are so important. Instead of using lines to divide the world into smaller pieces, God seems to be more interested in growing and expanding – creating a big picture full of the subtleties and highlights of all-encompassing love.

So. It’s a word of grace and a word of challenge. I realize how much I love lines. They are sturdy and help make a path through the chaos of life. They can be strong and sure and definitive. But, I think we are called to live into something bigger and broader than safe and reliable. I think we are called by faith to an adventure where the path shifts and bends and takes us into places beyond our imagination but rooted in the heart of God. I can’t think of a better way to move forward.