catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 2 :: 2009.01.16 — 2009.01.30


All that I let in

Living with someone, or some ones, can be brutally difficult.  You start with trust and love and hope, and wait for those to grow and shape your life together into more than words or a handful of names on a leasing agreement.  Since life is unpredictable and messy though, sometimes those first seedlings shrivel in the dirt.  

There’s this line from an Indigo Girls song that says, “I don’t know where it all began, and I don’t know where it all will end, but we’re better off for all that we let in.”  Such a simple statement, but it really stirs the scum on my pond.  The challenge in that line of poetry is the willingness to be changed by something outside of my control or even awareness.  That’s what living with others is like.  Suddenly you’re saying the same phrases over and over again and worrying what your housemate thinks about the new flavor of rice cakes you purchased.  So shouldn’t that make me super careful about who and what I let in?  To be honest, that’s pretty much how I’ve lived for a long time and how I’ve been told to live.  In a world where I feel helpless much of the time, I have to stand firm on what’s allowed in and what’s to keep out-not blink in the face of evil and all that.  Yet this little song suggests that there’s more hope-that it’s not just about me, and that it’s not just up to me.  Hope is truly at the center of this idea of “letting in” because it suggests: you can handle it.  What’s more, you’ll be better for it.  

Today’s sermon at my church was on the passage in Matthew 2 concerning the magi’s visit to Bethlehem.  Pastor Jack mentioned that the “wise men” as we call them were considered total idolators by the Jews, alienated by their wealth.  Here we have the first important moments of Christianity and the author just skips right over the familiar shepherds and glorious angels to this band of outsiders about whom we know almost nothing, and who give absurdly expensive gifts to a family living in manure and sawdust.  The thing about letting these outsiders into the story is that they show everyone else up.  They get it in a way even the religious elite miss, and the life of the story is better for it.  We all have a place in the coming of Christ, in the hope of that promise.

So then, my lazy heart whines, “Okay, how far do I have to let something or someone in?”  And my fearful heart whimpers, “How do I prove I can be a saint and let more in than anyone else?”  That’s where frustration creeps in, because it’s not even as though I know all my own degrees of “in” until an invisible line has been crossed.  And that’s so unfair to my cohabitators: imagined invisible lines all over the house like fishing-line-can’t see anything until you trip over it!  And of course, I’ve tried the whole striving for sainthood approach, denying myself and picking up crosses…along with grudges by the armful.  Apparently, there are lots and lots of books and motivational speeches about these things called “boundaries,” but I’m so busy reading books my mom passive-aggressively insists I read, I don’t have time for that junk.  

The problem is, of course, that cohabitation is not just living under the same roof; sometimes just sharing a city or a phone number with someone feels like they are stomping all over those invisible lines or shoving crosses into your hands. If I’m learning anything about cohabitation it’s the importance of knowing thyself.  Sometimes it takes someone who knows me really well to help me with this.  It seems to me that I can only let as much in to my life as I am let in to the lives of those I love and trust.  Those are the people who, at the end of the day, can remind me of who is doing the letting.

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