When a child is ignoring basic responsibilities, parents rely on a well-known parenting technique to make a point. Mom looks her ten-year-old in the eye while holding a toothpaste tube in one hand and the cap in the other. “This is called toothpaste,” she says, “and this is called a cap. They go together.” The Lord God is not beyond impatience and remedial instruction when people need a reminder about neglected responsibilities. God held a basket of ripened summer fruit beneath Amos’s nose and said, “Amos, what do you see here?” The prophet, sensing that God was serious, didn’t bother joking. “A basket of summer fruit,” he replied. With that brief exchange, strangely similar to a parent remedially instructing a child, the doors opened to a flood of divine wrath.
When I sit with the Washington Post and my morning coffee, I have a sense that I’m hovering on a threshold; like many Americans, I remember September 11 and feel as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Even a cursory investigation of art through the ages that contains images of Mary and Martha will uncover a common thread. Invariably, Mary and Martha are snarling at one another, having been forever pitted against one another by the Gospel of Luke.
The world is full of walls. Everywhere we go, there are fences, gates, partitions and other ingeniously constructed barriers—all aimed at keeping something or someone in and keeping something or someone else out. We need walls.
The other day my husband, Ken, and I splashed and swam in a pool, then ate burgers and drank iced tea at a barbecue hosted by our friends Ann Marie and Patricia. We are pleased and proud of the honorary titles “Uncle Ken” and “Auntie Rachel,” bestowed on us by this couple and the children they are raising. I’m also thankful for permission to tell their story, which has taught me much about what the apostle Paul calls “a spirit of adoption.”
A friend of mine recalls that her mother always sat sideways in her chair during meals. Whether the table was surrounded by family members or invited guests, she was poised for action. She’d jump up if she’d forgotten something in the kitchen, if someone wanted steak sauce rather than the ketchup that was on the table, or if it was time to pass the serving dishes around again. This mom seldom relaxed enough to enjoy the food and conversation.