The week of January 8th’s #2021WritingChallenge is the word ground.
At about 2:00am on December 4, 2020, my family and I were sleeping soundly when 2 strung out bad guys found their way into our living space through our attached garage. Exactly what their path of invasion was I’m not sure but they came into our living room, our kitchen and our entryway and snatched all of our computers, phones, devices and purse. They left through the same door they came in and drove off with our car.
I count myself fortunate that it had taken 39 years to experience this level of violation in my life but all the same it was a surreal and jarring experience that has left an indelible mark upon us all. And of course, it need not be mentioned but the stuff that was taken is a mere annoyance compared to the unsettling tape that keeps playing in my head of what would transpire had I woken up to encounter them or, worse, had they entered the children’s bedrooms. Shudder. Whenever my mind tries to press play on that “what if” tape, I’ve forced myself to develop a mental distraction that helps avoid going down that road.
What grounds me in situations like these? What brings me back to reality when life falls beyond our control? When good times are soaring or bad times are derailing? What gives me assurance that things will work out?
Well, I don’t have to speculate much on this one. The first morning of the robbery, when the reality had started to sink in that we’d been violated and I started to process all that had happened just a few hours earlier, aside from both seeking and providing comfort to the family (my wife), my instinct was to call those closest to me and share the burden. I didn’t have a phone (it was stolen) but I borrowed my dad’s computer and sent my buddy a quick message to come visit as something terrible had happened. And then I connected with my church community as well, seeking reassurance and, quite frankly, help in coping.
This instinctual response to dealing with a jarring experience highlights for me how I cope with being un-grounded. I turn to 3 groups – my wife, my closest friends and my church. But I’ve been wondering if the common thread of faith isn’t really at the heart of what instinctively draws me to these particular people.
I know that if you were to ask me in my late teens and early 20s what grounded me, I would say, above all, it was my faith. Mostly because this was the expected response of a Bible College grad growing up in the evangelical world. But saying one’s faith is what grounds them is akin to saying gravity is what grounds a plane. I mean, sure, but at the same time, from a pilot’s standpoint, knowing that gravity is what grounds the plane doesn’t contribute much to a safe landing. What grounds a plane is determined by the engine’s power, turbine speeds, the angle of the wings and so forth (Hard truth: I have zero clue how planes fly, let alone how planes land, but you get my point. I hope.)
A successful landing in life means I can gain perspective in the moment, or shortly thereafter, of some turbulent ordeal, and in doing so, gain control over my own outlook in order to prevent a devastating crash.
I’m not sure, it might have worked in those days but I know that if someone were to have come up and say, for instance, “Just have faith that everything will work out!” the morning we sat there trying to collect ourselves and make heads or tails of all that had transpired just a few short hours earlier, I very well may have punched them in the throat.
Pleas of keeping faith are just blah platitudes in the absence of connection, but when faith is embodied, well, now we’re talking.
The faith practiced by my wife, closest friends and church community has power to ground because it speaks to a shared worldview, shared values system and even, in many ways, a shared experience of reality. I turn to these groups because I know that had they been in my shoes, their response would be akin to mine. But the advantage is that in addition to much needed empathy in these moments, by virtue of their not having endured the turbulence, they could maintain clarity and tap into the wisdom and insights that would keep me from becoming unhinged.
This was certainly true the morning of the robbery. I received a lot of empathy—and that was key—but talking it out with Rhonda–who in this case is a bad example because she lived through the experience with me, yet nevertheless was able to maintain a clear head through it all–led to a lot of healthy perspective that helped ground me. My faith-sharing friends didn’t seize the moment to tear down society or cause erratic fear to arise in me or any such response. Instead, they were empathetic and level-headed and could speak the words of comfort and wisdom needed to help me maintain perspective and land the plane safely.
So I guess this is what grounds me. Those closest to me who, when all is stripped away, still try to follow the Middle Eastern mystic and who are able, by virtue of their own pursuit of the way of Jesus, to instill in me the means of not losing sight of the horizon in the midst of life’s turbulence.
Let me add one caveat. I don’t think it has to be a shared faith experience with others that grounds me. It helps but I know there were others in those days following the robbery whose presence and words and thoughtful gestures did more than I can say toward helping our family out. I just know that because faith has always played an integral part of my life and I daresay I define myself by it, it would make sense that there would be an instinctual honing in with others of a shared faith in order to find meaningful connection. Obviously, meaningful connection takes place over a myriad of common factors – I’ve just found, more times than not, that faith lends itself to this with ease. Hope this makes sense!