My first intention for this blog post was to talk about the fuzzy but dangerous line between the merger of religion and politics, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready to talk about that yet. So, instead, I thought why not discuss my impending trip to Florida. On Thursday morning, I am taking a flight down to Boca Raton to visit my dad’s parents, whom I haven’t seen probably since I was 12-years-old. I won’t bother to lay out my family history or the dynamic that exists between my father and his father, as that is extraneous and unnecessary for my sake of the argument. But, I will go as far as to say that I am the only granddaughter, and the only one who has a college degree to her name (oh, ok, I am the closest to a college degree than any of my male cousins got. But that is beside the point…), let alone the only one to even apply and get into graduate school. Anyway, back to the main point. I am seeing my grandparents (2/4, I still have all 4 grandparents) for the first time in a really long while, and it will be interesting, as the last time they saw me, I was pre-pubescent and looked completely different. We have, however, kept in touch by phone and letters, but lets be honest, that’s not nearly a fair replacement for human contact. But that isn’t to say that they haven’t had their fair share of opportunities to come visit, for example, my high school graduation. Putting that aside, this is the first time they will see me as an adult, and with that comes a lot of expectations from me.
I honestly don’t know what to expect from the experience at all. Seeing as they haven’t been a physical presence in my life, and over the last 10 years we have barely spoken on the phone (mind you we have talked on the phone physically, but in reality, I really don’t know too much about them. We talk, but not much is actually said…), so I have no clue how the three days spent down there will in actuality go. I want a good relationship with them, as not only are they getting on in years, but they are also family. And since my family is so tiny, I need all the family I can get.
But what does this have to do with the title of this post: “God and Jesus: The Glue That Binds Opposite People Together”? I suppose the thing that binds my grandparents and myself together is the sole fact that we both go to church. A belief in God can bind people together that might not ordinarily have anything in common. This is not necessarily true in my case, as my family and I have a lot in common besides faith and blood. This is also the case with many of my friends from SCF. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have a reason to hang out with or get to know those women, but a uniting faith in God brought us together and created a bond that won’t be broken.
This isn’t necessarily the case with all Christians (or churchgoers), but it definitely happens. Let me provide another example. Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to hang out with one of my roommates from CSM in New York. She now works for CSM at their Brooklyn site, and it is such a blessing that she is on my coast now so we can build a post-CSM friendship! We were hanging out in Grand Central in their food court, enjoying yummy New York food. Often times during the harsh NY winters, the homeless will flock to Grand Central to take refuge from the snow and wind blowing off of the Hudson and East Rivers. This was the case yesterday, as it was unusually cold, so the homeless were resting at the tables in the food court. As we hadn’t seen each other since the beginning of August, we had much to catch up on; our conversation was going on and on, talking about church (she goes to and has gotten involved at Joel Houston’s Hillsong NYC church in Brooklyn) and God and plans, etc. She put her arm over an extra chair, unintentionally preventing a homeless man from taking up residence in it. The woman at the table next to us (Obviously a tourist, and therefore unaccustomed to the obscene size and presence of NY’s homeless population) leaned over and said something along the lines of, “I couldn’t help but overhear you both talking about church. Are you Christians? Because I’m a Christian and I just want to thank you for putting your arm on that chair.” RANDOM, right? But that is precisely what I mean when I say that God brings people together who might not ordinarily have things in common.
Are these relationships built to last? Hmm, now that’s another question entirely. I don’t think I have an answer to that, but that isn’t what matters. I find that my faith is brought to a new level when I am able to spend time with other Christians; in these interactions, information and experiences are exchanged, both of which serve to strengthen and enhance one’s relationship with God. Further, Jesus emphasized that we are a community of believers, not simply individuals wandering in the desert to face faith alone.
But what does this mean for people who come from completely different socioeconomic and political stances, different geographic locations? Does this mean that besides faith, the relationship will fail? I’m not sure that this is necessarily true. I think that through faith, alliances and understanding is bred. Yes, we have seen in the political arena that religion can serve to deadlock progress. But at the same time, if two Christians from completely different viewpoints can come together and have a discussion, hopefully (and logically) some level of understanding can be reached. Does progress happen overnight? Certainly not. But I believe that if enough Christians come together and have the necessary discussions and arguments in a safe and constructive environment, anything can happen. Progress can happen. I hope and pray that the future is brighter because of the relationships forged between Christians. As I say constantly, we as Christians are supposed to love, regardless of economics, political views, geography, race, gender and sexuality; it may seem challenging because faith becomes complicated in our society (rather, we think that in order to be properly faithful, our beliefs and practices must be complicated – complicated faith indicates a mature and righteous belief and faith in God.)
So back to my journey to Florida. What does this have anything to do with faith binding us together, despite the fact that we haven’t had physical contact in nearly if not more than a decade? My grandparents, especially my grandfather, are deeply religious/faithful people. In fact, my grandfather’s church back in the early 1940s offered to pay for him to go to Princeton Theological Seminary to become a minister, but WWII intervened, and he headed over to do a 3 year tour in the South Pacific. Not that going to seminary necessarily indicates a higher level of devotion to God, but I could tell that when I got into Princeton, it touched his heart in a place he had never shown anyone, let alone his kids or grandkids. My grandfather and I haven’t had many deep and personal discussions – ok, I actually can’t remember one – but I know in my heart that we are connected because of and through our common belief in Jesus and in the existence of God. Our faiths are by no means on the same level; He ascribes to a more conservative, exclusive view of faith, while I am more on the educated, sophisticated theological side. But regardless, both my faith and his boil down to the same unifying set of beliefs: God exists, God knows everything, Jesus is God’s only Son, Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we could live. Based on all these facts, we have more in common than either of us will ever know. Will either he or I recognize them in three days? Probably not. But what I hope to get out of the next three days is that we can grow a little bit closer and come to understand each other a bit better.
I’m definitely not scared of the unknown the way I used to be. But a part of me is a little frightened of what is to happen in Florida. My grandparents have changed quite a bit over the course of 10 years, and that is scary enough; but what scares me most is that the three days will just be a long uncomfortable discussion about their various accomplishments, and no progress on a relationship will be made. Life is so short – this I have personally learned a lot in the past 2 weeks, and since they are in their late 80s, I would like to help them get to know me and the woman I hope to become. They should be so proud of what I have done so far, and even more proud of what I hope to do in my future. I hope (and pray) that I am able to convey this to them in the short time I am given. Hopefully we can hone in on the bond that we do have aside from our familial relationship – our belief in the same God and the same Christ.
Perhaps I am ready to tackle the discussion between religion and politics. Perhaps for next time.