All that is frayed in us

May 19, 2014

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Ralls's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

One of my favorite confessions of sin is from a short poem called "Thread," by Dan Chiasson. "I am frayed where it would be highly useful," he writes, "to make a point."

Many people, perhaps most, are at least vaguely aware of one of the consequences of human sin. Our lives—to some degree our whole selves—become frayed. Sin lies at the heart of our discontent. It is the cause of our restlessness. As a result, we experience a myriad of feelings rooted in alienation (a fancy word for being frayed)—loneliness, regret, shame, meaninglessness.

Most of all, we experience a general anxiety called guilt. Guilt is a vague sense that we are frayed in precisely the parts of us where it would be most helpful to make a point. 

John 14:20 might be viewed as a description of redemption, God’s gracious response to human sin. "I am in my Father." "You are in me." "I am in you." Perhaps this is a way to portray the promise of a redeemed human life concentrated into a specific point—Jesus Christ. In communion with Father, Son, and Spirit, all that is frayed in us begins once again to “make a point.”


looking toward home

One reason I'm now reading and commenting on Christian Century is the Christian guideline of speech that prevails here.
The " threads" of the blogs where I wrote, and still write but less often, majored in ad hominem and, perhaps, blather.( Not to say I couldn't get very near that myself, or fall into it.) And I felt frayed from efforts to present a hope, a way out, a positive outlook, only to receive ridicule. Much good is available there but very much that isn't, in my view.
I was "frayed" where it would have been "most helpful to make a point. " To see that idea expressed at this time is quite encouraging to me.

Frayed vs. point

However, frayed dendrites meet together in order to connect. The frays don't connect by touching but through the electrochemicals that transmit from dendrite to dendrite. It is the Holy Spirit that charges the atmosphere in Christ that transmits from frayed disciple to frayed disciple.
Points only pierce, or make the onlooker squint to see the keenest, infinitesimal sense. Such concentration can miss the whole point of the scattered light that spreads forth in the empty space between us.