My husband took away my phone the other day.
Okay, that’s not true. I was on my phone, chillaxin’ on the couch, when he told me he thought it would be better for my mental health if I wasn’t on Facebook so much.
And I scoffed and sputtered and grumped and grimaced. Such a judgmental man, how dare he!
But as soon as he left the room, I put away my phone. I did some chores, studied some Hebrew, made some food. And had a much better rest of my day.
Social media is my hatchet these days, my weapon, my sword. There is a lot to be challenged by way of policies and rhetoric and how we describe or denigrate one another. There is much to be denounced and protested and torn down.
I know what I want to tear down: misogyny, xenophobia, fear-mongering, disrespect. I want to tear down baseless suspicions that render hearts implacable and cold.
The tearing down is easy. It’s clear. It’s precise.
But what do I want to build?
I don’t have to look far to answer that question. I see my kids in their coming and going, their fighting and snuggling, and I know I want to build up my life with them. I want to slow down enough to hear them out and help them to hear out others, too. I want to build a home that is safe, both physically and intellectually, where they can ask questions and sort out their troubles in the confidence that their parents love and care for and respect them. I want to build my home as a place of nourishment, where my kids can be fed in their bellies and fed in their hearts so that, whatever they face when they leave, they go out better and stronger than when they came first came through the door.
I want to build up my marriage. By the grace of God I still adore the brown-eyed, teasing, still sometimes inscrutable man I married fifteen years ago. And yes, I adore him in spite of the fact that we have both changed—kids, career, loss, and illness can’t help but change you. There has been some terrible pain along the way; things to forgive, things for which to be forgiven. But we are in this thing--this whacky, terrifying, upending thing called life--together. 100%. And I want to build our marriage over the next 15 years to be even stronger and more life-giving than the first fifteen have been.
I want to build a stronger community around me. And that doesn’t mean going out and laying the foundation for The Next Big Thing, be it a program or organization or whatever. It means putting time into some of the many good things that are already taking place. It means hearing people's stories and telling my own. It means taking the bus more than driving alone and watching out for my neighbours, both literal and figurative. It means keeping well enough to gather with people at church, at our neighbourhood house, at the soccer field or at the boys’ schools. It means accepting invitations and extending more of my own. It means volunteering with organisations that make our neighbourhood, our city, our country more connected, even if just an hour or two a week.
I want to build up my own strength. I want to get well again, and if it means putting away my phone then good, I'll put it away (thanks hon!) If it means reading a book instead of downloading another hair-raising article, then okay, I'll read the book. If it means yes, engaging online or in person in these days when such engagement is necessary, then good; but if it means disengaging when appropriate and disengaging as a matter of discipline and health then I will strive to do that, too. Because everything else I want to build up--my home, my kids, my marriage, my community--is impacted if I don't make the effort to keep myself well. It is good and holy work to keep oneself well; to build up one's strength, to keep nourished in mind and body. If I have learned anything in this past year and a half, it is that.
What do you want to build? And with whom do you want to build it? In a time when so much calls to be halted or torn down, what calls out to you to be tended or built up? The writer of Ecclesiastes makes clear that there are time to do both! To build up and to tear down. And sometimes there are times for doing both at the same time.
May the building up of what is good and the tearing down of what is not be clear. And may you and I have strength for the tasks, amen and amen.