Happy New Year from Amsterdam! Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar uit Amsterdam!
I sit down to my first half day of work and my brain is racing and I’m making phone calls and hasty scribblings in my appointment book and trying to remember words in Dutch for e-mails I’m writing.
But this morning the sun rose red and the day looks clear and my baby girl leaned against me as I held her, arms curled underneath as she sat in my hold, sleepily in pajamas, thumb in her mouth. That downy blond head with those two interested eyes that already sharply regard me. She is fully alive.
I gulped water and sleepily made coffee and looked longingly at my Bible, changing a diaper and choosing toys and making breakfast and measuring the risk of letting Estella try to feed herself yogurt with her own spoon. I put away dishes and looked longingly out the window. I wanted to linger over the beauty of the morning, but inanimate things called…like calendars and dishes and laundry.
I heard sad news yesterday. Lately there seems to have been more than the usual amount of sicknesses and funerals that feel too early. There are people being murdered for being people in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have a new kind of world war waging, and it’s not in legions of growing armies, but in misguided minds, filled with hate, with guns. There are relationships and realities being challenged, and war is being waged on life, on truth, on love, on beauty.
So I feel the need to take a moment away from my agenda, write this post, and lean into life, truth, love, beauty. Not as escape, but as a way to face things that sometimes take courage to face.
So I flip open to whatever passage, like I used to do as a teenager, and read these words from 1 John (The Message). The ancient Paul writes to these followers of a very new movement called The Way, the beginning of Christianity:
God’s word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain victory over the Evil One. Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.
Strong words from Paul. Strange words for our 2015 ears. Words like Evil One, victory, eternity. Words that sound threatening. But what I love about these words is just that—they grate on the ears precisely because they are dangerous. They’re dangerous to selfishness, hatred, greed, violence. They’re dangerous to everything wrong and twisted in this world. And they give me courage. And they help me regard the beauty of this world and know that it’s worth protecting.
I’m working in a café and watching a little girl, maybe three years old, bouncing on her father’s knee. Her face is bright, open, curious. There is no trace of fear or hesitancy. Her face is precious, her open expression rare and fleeting. When she is older and has been hurt enough, or disappointed, she will learn caution, fear even. I think of my own little E and the thought makes me sad, the idea that something will temper her confidence, her passion. But it’s only then, facing life’s harsher realities, that she will begin to make her way to the other side. From naivety to knowledge. To choose to be courageous on the other side of fear. To know the evil of the world, but to look it in the eye, to choose truth and beauty. To choose to love.