I can’t really pinpoint the moment I met Meredith on the internet. But I am glad I did. This is not the first time I have been very impressed with her writing. It certainly won’t be the last. Meredith is on my writers to watch list for sure. I didn’t plan it, or tell her, but I think this peice captivates scarcity thinking and the freedom of abundance perfectly. Consider this day 9 of my 31 days of scarcity.
The Kingdom of God is like a Line with No Order
A line curved out the door of my church and wrapped around the block. I hadn’t intended to stop at the church, but driving past this event, I found myself pulling over and parking on the side of the road. Frankly, I had never seen this many people here ever. Not even the Sunday my pastor preached a sermon from the roof (a story for another day).
A few women pulled blue coolers and children along with them as the line inched forward, leading to something through the double red doors of the church; people were piling into God’s house. The June day paraded around like one in mid August, cloaked in heavy, humid air. The voices and sounds outside the church layered on top of one another, the sounds of caps popping off bottles joining low resonant voices, all punctuated by the high squeals of children’s laughter. Sweaty in my car, I watched out of suburban curiosity of the unknown, watching the citizens of the line.
I could not tell where one family started and another family ended, or which children belonged to which adults. Kids wove in, around, and through the line, running and taunting one another, while the parents watched them together. A sign stuck in the church lawn announced the presence of the Mexican consulate helping with “los pasaportes.”
The body language of those waiting in front of our white-steepled church gave no tell of the stakes of the line, of what hung in the balance on this summer afternoon. I thought of the lines I had waited in at movie premiers or the Gap with crossed arms, policing my surroundings for budgers and those with over-complicated questions and demands taking more than their fair share.
I watched a boy being chased through the churchyard, his head not reaching the waist of most of the adults around him. Then, looking over his shoulder as he tried to escape, he ran right into an elderly man’s legs. At first the boy backed away, his eyes darkening with concern, but the man put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and just laughed, a full throated, head thrown back laugh, making the boy ease into a giggle too, which quickly assuaged the kid’s concerned mother who had come to fetch him. The man picked up the boy and began to talk with the mother, inviting her into his spot, earlier up in the line.
My peers taught me from an early age that lines are about status. I have memories of my kindergarten classroom, waiting in line to receive a waxy Dixieland cup full of lukewarm water and a hand-full of Teddy Grahams. I peered over the shoulders in front of me to make sure Mrs. Cummings had enough for me, counting back to see where I fit in the line, losing track somewhere around ten. I oversaw the portions given to each of my classmates, no longer friends, but competitors making the level of Teddy Grahams go down, down, down in the plastic canister.
The woman with the small boy had made it to the red doors now, and she hadn’t moved back to her place in line yet. I worried that someone would embarrass her or ask her to move, the way I’ve seen old men do at Starbucks and deli counters. If they don’t shout it, they mumble to their party or whoever will listen, “Do you see this person cutting in front of me?” Lines are full of the implied rules of justice and fairness, and we patrol those around us to uphold these laws. We make sure no one takes what is not rightfully theirs or, more importantly, rightfully ours.
It’s not just a problem of our capitalist society. The disciples worried about their spot in line too. Instead of watching their Jesus, who turned lines and hierarchy inside out, who washed their feet and insisted those late to work in the vineyard would be given the same pay, they worried about where their seating assignment in the heavenly realms would be.
The line in front of my church did not stratify those gathered, but instead unified them. After all, people in line with you often want the same things. In that line, the order didn’t seem to matter as much as simply being there. I often ignore this commonality in lines and stare at my shoes rather than connecting with those around me.
It reminds me of the stories I love about Jesus, the way he ignored the politics of lines and legalism of the pharisees and noticed the woman who grabbed his cloak, the man who asked for healing on the sabbath, and another who was lowered through a rooftop by his friends. He told the children to come unto him and noticed a snively little tax collector who climbed a tree, telling him he’d come over to his house for dinner.
The kingdom of God is like this, a line with no rules, a line that offends the righteous, those who’ve been in line for a while doing the right thing.
I saw a man leave through the side door of the church. He held the hand of his son in one hand, and in the other, a packet of papers. His wife laughed, holding her pregnant belly. A couple of people clapped for them as they walked past. Sitting in my car, I smiled too, wanting to join the people, to get in line and walk away new or different, not by getting but by waiting together in the middle of it all.
Though at the time I gawked out of curiosity, the image still stays with me, deepening and fermenting to explain something I believe in my gut. It’s the kind of story I want to tell my kids instead of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant or the tale of the little red hen. I want them to see that to live out grace we must at times discard the vocabulary of “deserving” and “bootstrap-pulling” and instead usher the later-comers to the front of the line, sharing in the community of reaching towards the same desire. This. The kingdom of heaven is like this.
Meredith (Vosburg) Bazzoli is a writer and comedian living in the Chicagoland area. Meredith loves hearing and recording other’s stories, finding glimmers in the mundane, exploring and collaborating creatively, making good food, and seeking what it means to love and follow Christ in the everyday. She writes about living the revealed life on this blog and performs at the iO and Playground theaters in Chicago. Meredith is married to Drew, a web designer and 6’4″ man with the self-described physique of a tube sock. Connect with her onInstagram and Twitter!