If these 10 posts serve as cairns along the sense-making trail of 2017, where might they be leading?
T rying to identify a common theme in 10 blog posts that would explain a whole year is like trying to shovel the driveway with a teaspoon. But dagnabbit, we’re going to try. It’s almost as if we have to, right? Somewhere in the inner workings of our nature is the compulsion to use whatever feeble tools are at our disposal to try to make sense of our lives. We’re hungry for an overarching story to explain the smaller stories that constitute our months, weeks, days, minutes.
Let’s look at it this way. If these 10 most-read posts serve as cairns along the sense-making trail of 2017, where might they be leading? I will venture a possibility, though it is only my interpretation: Home. If there’s any inter-woven theme from the most-popular posts at All Things New this year, I think it’s the desire to go home, or to find a place to call home.
Stephanie Carney’s post (no. 10) on staying at Summitview for two decades is at once a psalm of gratitude for this church family and also an expression of longing for a final home where goodbyes are a relic. Angie Shoemaker’s essay (no. 9) on sexual assault is, at its heart, about the home of solidarity we find in Christ. My essay about our family’s road to adoption (no. 8) centers on the painful road we sometimes must take to get home. The three most-read posts of the year wrestle with various aspects of loneliness and inadequacy. And, heck, all Taylor Swift (no. 5) wants is to find a home to rest her weary reputation. I think you’ll be able to identity similar themes in these and the remaining posts.
In a year dominated by widespread political dysfunction (again) and at-times painful transitions in our own church family, it’s no wonder that the thought of home alights with each cairn we pass. Someday, we’ll be there. Someday, the driveway will no longer need to be shoveled. In the meantime, allow the following 10 articles and essays to stir your longing for our real home, our true country. The trail’s not much longer now.
No. 10: “Stay: On the Burdens and Beauty of Commitment” by Stephanie Carney
“We are not better because we have stayed and we have not settled because we have not left. We are where God has placed us—with all that comes with a community spanning 21 years. I would not change a minute.”
No. 9: “Victims and Villains: How Jesus’s #MeToo Changes Everything” by Angie Shoemaker
“When we are helpless and innocent, battered and broken by the evil actions of others, he sees. ‘Me too,’ he comforts. ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was that chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).”
No. 8: “Trailer: The Next Right Thing” by Trevor Sides
Well, we never were able to finish the “full-length” version of the Everharts’ story, but this video is a good of summation as any of what God put this dear family through when they went to El Paso on a church plant.
No. 7: “James, Julien and the Judge” by Trevor Sides
“The judge was fair, encouraging and affirming him when it was merited. But it was not enough. He was devastated and in tears when we walked out of the courtroom. We somehow ended up in a small circle outside the elevators. He extended his hand to me and I gave him a hug and we were both in tears.”
No. 6: “I, Phone: Love and Addiction in the Age of Distraction” by Trevor Sides
“The medium is the message. What you look at on your smartphone is not enough to evaluate; how much you look at your smartphone is more significant. That screen is embedded with possibilities and impossibilities that are far more powerful than the content itself. Your data plan costs more than the bottom line on the bill.”
No. 5: “You’ll All Get Yours: The Fall of Taylor Swift” by Eddie Smith
“You begin to realize that the chorus—‘Look what you made me do’—isn’t ultimately about her entrapment nor her retribution. It’s about the murder of her own image. Which is how, as we all know, sin works. Underneath the deception and destruction of our fellow man is the hatred of God, the Holy One, and the holy image intrinsic in his creation.”
No. 4: “The Best Films of 2016 Will Break Your Heart and Stir Your Soul” by Anthony Alvarado
“Then there’s Silence, which was almost completely ignored by Academy voters and moviegoers alike. . . . But I won’t forget Scorsese taking such a risk and giving us this exquisite film. He brought Endō’s book to life like I didn’t think was possible. It is still amazing to me that this film was even made, let alone by one of the greatest directors of this generation! I think it’ll be a classic for a long time. I’m thankful for Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and the rest of the cast for going all in and presenting faith as a believable, worthwhile and challenging journey.”
No. 3: “This Is the Part Where I Lose It” by Joy Everhart
“This is who am: broken and useless and wailing at the feet of God. I can’t go to the dorms and I can’t recover from my car break-in. I can’t park this van and I certainly can’t help bring others to the church. ‘I can’t do this, God! I can’t, I can’t!’”
No. 2: “Loneliness Is Not a Problem to Be Solved” by Silas Nelson
“But when I speak with other people in the college group about the problem of loneliness, I hear the same thing over and over. ‘I’m surrounded by like-minded Christians and yet I feel lonely. I’m the only one experiencing this loneliness, and we need to work on fixing this.’ I’m starting to realize that I’m not the only one who’s believing a lie that social media told me. Not only have I bought into the lie that others are experiencing a better community than I am, but I have also started believing that I am the only one who feels this loneliness.”
No. 1: “The Worst Is My Being Alone” by Tim Constant
“As I continued stumbling over my words, Jesus got up and walked through the seated crowd right up to me. I couldn’t see his face. The closer he got the deeper my head fell. I looked at the ground, a hot tear hung from each eye. The well of pretense had run dry and all I found at the bottom was a few coins of truth. ‘Sometimes I have a hard time giving my life to you,’ I said. It was the only truth I knew.”