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The perilous outside of a beachfront balcony

I could not possibly see what I think I’m seeing. No way. Surely what I see, looking through the sliding glass door of our fourth floor beachfront condo, is an illusion. My eyes must be playing tricks on me. Because no seven year old son of mine would ever, ever climb over the balcony railing to stand on the outside. That’s ridiculous.
But no. He is, in fact, perched precariously – four floors above the ground – holding on to the rail, inching along the balcony, a carefree expression on his face. La-la-la-dee-dum.
Walk slowly. No sudden movements. Open the sliding glass door carefully. As if approaching a rabid dog or a bear or a sleeping toddler, I step toward him. 
Because this moment could not be more ridiculous, I see Michael standing a mere three feet away from this potentially life-altering situation. Standing there. His back turned, talking to Griffin.
“Um, do you see what your son is doing?” I said softly. Your son, because obviously my son would never consider such an outlandish stunt.
Quickly, carefully, we each grab an arm and pull Nathan over the rail.
He is safe. At least from splatting on the sidewalk. Mama’s wrath is another story.
If, like me, your family includes girls and boys, you will likely agree that God certainly has a sense of humor. Boys do things – like standing on the outside of a balcony railing – that would never, ever even occur to girls. Especially rule-following, responsible, emotionally mature first-born girls. So almost daily, the thought escapes my lips: “WHAT IS IN YOUR HEAD?!?”
I’ve learned not to ask why. The journey down that path simply isn’t worth the effort. But I broke my rule the day after Nathan’s flirtation with Death. His answer? “I dunno.” As in, “why not?”
Like I said, not worth it. 
This happened two weeks ago. I wrote the above paragraphs last week. I’ve waited and procrastinated and avoided my desk chair because I could not think of a way to wrap this up in a tidy life lesson. No profound analogy. No snarky conclusion. Nothing.
Then came the Chick-Fil-A debacle. It’s a stretch. I know.
I’m not going to comment. Not really. Jen Hatmaker expressed my feelings perfectly.
Go ahead. Click on the link and soak it in. I’ll wait.
Yes. Amen.What she said.
As I lay in bed last night, trying to go to sleep, thinking about the million and three things I need to accomplish today, I had a thought. (My best thoughts usually happen around midnight.)
So Hatmaker is going to the basement, as a figurative literary device, and I’m going down with her. Let the destructive tornado ravage all that is above ground. I’m sitting this one out.
But then I thought, basement…ewww. While safe, basements are dark. Sometimes a little damp. No light. No sunshine.
I think I’ll go to the beach.
The soldiers in the culture wars have drawn battle lines, but from where I’m sitting, both sides stand together on the outside of the balcony. No one will escape unscathed. Everyone is in peril. Everyone risks mortal injury.
Me? I’m getting off the balcony and heading down to the beach. It’s nice on the beach. The salty air in my nostrils, velvety sand between my toes, warm sun on my face? Yes, please. And all of those in Hatmaker’s basement are welcome to join me. We’ll crank up a beachy playlist, slather on some sunblock, and soak in the rays. Hunt for shells and hermit crabs. Throw the frisbee.

 

I’ve been trying to ignore all the drivel of the culture wars. Living in the Buckle of the Bible Belt makes that very difficult. Social justice Christians are hard to come by down here, but I’m very thankful for people like Jen Hatmaker (she lives in Austin) who are leading the way and challenging my generation and other post-modernists to get back to serving the least instead of only blessing the blessed. Moving the battle lines back so they encircle all of us – that way, we can sit down together and have a conversation.
Though it would certainly be easier for me to join the fray, I continually remind myself what I tell my kids…
  1. It is better to be kind than to be rightwhich doesn’t mean we lay down and let people walk all over us, but it does mean that sometimes there are arguments we need to walk away from. 
  2. Whenever someone is mean, there is a reason. There is something going on in that person’s heart that makes them act out in a hurtful way – more often than not, the root issue involves fear. Also insecurity, sadness, hurt. All manifest themselves in anger. (Glennonnailed this today.)
  3. I am not responsible for other people’s decisions or actions, but I am responsible for my ownactions – and reactions. If I don’t like something, I need to “be the change I want to see in the world” and lead by example. I want to see civil, dignified discourse. I want to see respect. I want to see people valued, regardless of their ideology. So I’ll listen. Smile. Seek to understand more than to be understood.
I think we are to be the answer to the prayer “Thy Kingdom come.” When we open ourselves to the Spirit of God, when His love transforms our hearts and our minds, our thoughts and our actions, we can bring the unity, restoration and peace of heaven to Earth. Guess what? No legislation will either further or hinder His kingdom. God’s bigger than that. 


A few days before Nathan walked the balcony, we went to the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. It was…impressive? Huge naval aircraft hang from the ceiling, some parked on the ground. There are models of aircraft carriers, plaques and tributes to the thousands of sailors who served. My own grandfather (though not personally commemorated in the museum) fought with the Navy in WWII. He was credited with sinking the first German U-Boat. And, from what I’ve heard, that act haunted him the rest of his life. Somewhere in Germany, a mother, a wife, a family received a telegram. Because of my grandfather. I can’t fathom shouldering that burden. No one should have to.

Walking through the museum, I was supposed to be proud. I should have been awed. But truly, I kept thinking all these machines were built with one purpose: to kill. I realize our country – all countries – have to defend themselves. I know freedom requires bloody sacrifice. I just don’t like it. I don’t like the reality of having to hurt each other. I’d rather we didn’t. But in our world, it happens. So however small my part, I’ll do what I can to make it a little more peaceful.

In case you’re wondering, you won’t find me at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday. Not because I don’t enjoy my chicken sandwich and waffle fries. Not because I don’t believe in the freedom of speech. Not because I sympathize with those who feel marginalized and second-rate because of the careless remarks of one (or millions). I will eat elsewhere because I refuse to engage in this petty fight. I refuse to stand outside of the balcony.
When we hear Christians concerning themselves publicly about anything other than poverty and disease and hunger and oppression and violence – we turn away. Because really, who has the time? – Glennon Melton
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