Dave Brisbin 11.15.20
Last line of one of the great rock songs of all time: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave… Just as Hotel California was referring to a state of mind, 2020 has become a metaphor as well. A state of mind, an attitude toward life that even if different for each of us, is now etched into our psyches, and will not just leave as we check out on New Year’s eve. The continuous losses of 2020: Covid infections, lockdowns, social unrest, never-ending elections, have become a virtual war of attrition—a war fought not to win, but to wear down the opponent through continuous loss of resources. Who wins a war of attrition? The one with the most resources. Or the ability to renew their resources.

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We’ve all been worn down by this year, sometimes devastated in our loss of spiritual presence, emotional regulation, psychological balance, sense of humor. For Jesus, renewal of these resources is contained in another metaphor he uses over and over when he talks about gardeners and their plants. And in a most telling parable, renewal happens only while the gardener is fast asleep. He knows nothing about how it works, can’t make it happen, just shows up day after day making soil ready for the possibility of growth. The gardener has come to terms with his utter dependence on forces he can’t control, and at the mercy of sun, wind, and rain, he finds his own humility and vulnerability, an interior soil now prepared to receive the possibility of grace. As a society, we haven’t been gardeners for a long time, and if we fight this 2020 war of attrition as we typically do—as warriors—we’ve already lost. 2020 is now a state of mind, a metaphor. If you want to leave, change your metaphor. From warriors to gardeners, as we beat our swords into plowshares, we find the resources to outlast any war of attrition.

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