Balance and privilege
You can tell a lot about people by what they hang on their walls. If
it’s someone with an office, it gets even more interesting. In my office
at the church I serve, I do not have any diplomas hanging. No awards.
No trophies or medals either—not that I ever won any. Not even my
ordination certificate is on the wall. I figure that if I or anyone else
has to look at some framed document to see or remember my orders before
God, I’m in trouble.
Among some interesting pictures and
sculptures—you’ll have to see them sometime—I have a construction level
mounted on the wall. It’s actually very precious to me. A contractor in
my congregation named Rudy gave it to me as a symbol of the need to keep
life in balance. He knows I have enjoyed construction in the past. So
here is this Stanley level from the 1880s, crafted of beautiful cherry
wood and brass. There is also, of course, the little bubble inside,
which keeps reminding me that I mounted it about 1/8 inch off level.
can’t be the only one needing balance in my life. Every day something
is out of whack in every soul’s scheduling or decision-making. It has to
be, given life’s many pressures. This 24-inch chunk of lumber on my
wall is my daily conscience check.
Reflecting on this week’s Old
Testament reading makes me look at this level with new eyes. I am
beginning to think it is staring me in the face not just to highlight my
many challenges to the balanced life. (My wife would be happy to point
those out to you.) My level from Rudy is also staring at me to point out
the dreadful imbalance that exists between the privilege of my own life
and the struggling needs of others. Its gorgeous cherry is tipped in my
favor and against the favor of so many people who get stepped on by my
way of life. And this gap is a lot more than 1/8 inch.
of scales weighted in favor of the well-to-do and of God holding a
plumb line to measure crooked lives. I have this level on my wall
telling me to get inside the skin of those harmed by my privileged life.
I am an unwitting participant in far too much systemic injustice, more
than I’d like to believe. Every system, societal practice, purchase and
piece of legislation that benefits me at the expense of the dignity of
some other human being is wrong.
I remember Tim Wise once saying
that there are a whole lot of us who were born on third base yet think
we hit a triple. That’s good. Maybe next week I’ll have to put up a
picture of a baseball diamond, right next to Rudy’s level. There is
space on the wall.
Additional lectionary columns by Marty appear in the July 13 issue of the Century—click here to subscribe.