I (Dan) wore my Red Sox hat yesterday - something I haven't done in a while because this is not really a 'ball cap' culture. I needed to go to the store because I wanted to make the sauce for the young adult homemade pizza party in our apartment tonight (I think I have finally developed a good sauce recipe using available local ingredients!).
However, I had a difficult day yesterday (not an uncommon occurrence lately) - the rain fell heavily from the clouds and in my heart. Because of the rain, I decided to don my Red Sox for my walk to the store. As I took the hat off the shelf I looked under the brim at the dates I have written on it. I know it may sound weird, but under the brim I have written significant dates when I have worn the hat so that I will remember. I started this on 27 October 2004 (the night the Red Sox finally "reversed the curse" and won the World Series after an 86-year drought). Since then I have written a few other dates: the day Court said, "Yes!" to my proposal (I inscribed the date of our wedding under the brim of my '2004 World Series Champions' Red Sox hat); the day we graduated from Divinity School; the day the Red Sox won the last World Series. In between those last two dates I had another inscribed - "9 October 2008". I remembered that on this day Bishop Martinez and Bishop Justo laid their hands on our heads and Bishop Olsen stretched forth his hand as they commissioned Courtney and I "to go forth..." which resulted in our arrival in Latvia 2 weeks later. This remembrance granted perspective.
As I walked in the rain to the store I realized that I had bought the lie - hook, line, and sinker. What lie? The lie that current circumstances and situations have greater claim on our lives than God's hope, love and peace - The lie that circumstances and situations are a greater reality than the cross, resurrection, and expectant return of Christ - The lie that struggles, difficulties, and other peoples' perceptions define us rather than the reality that God created us, knows us, and cherishes us.
On the way to the store I stopped by the apartment of some recent, yet good and life-giving friends who also serve in this place. They also had a discouraging and frustrating day. We talked, we shared deeply, we laughed, and we prayed. And in this process, God lifted our heads and strengthened our hearts.
While I made a quick batch of pasta and let the sauce simmer, I hummed and smiled as I remembered the greater reality that defines me. I say greater reality, because this acknowledges the circumstances, difficulties, and frustrations we face are not merely illusions or false perceptions, yet they are, in fact, real. Yet into the midst of these realities lives the greater hope and the greater truth that I am a child of God - defined by God's love, grace, hope and peace.
I thank God for memories and the comfort of a favorite hat, for the simple things like homemade pasta and sauce, and for the truth that our identity and our joy comes from a from a reality greater than our circumstances and situations. Our joy, hope, and peace are gifts given to us by our loving Creator - our loving God. Amen!