Before today dawned, I had this perfect plan for my next Kerux post. It was all about truth, and the nature of truth, and would span both Marvel movies and some clever philosophy tidbits. I even woke up early to squeeze a bit of writing around my Greek homework. Once up, however, I couldn’t really begin until I had watched, well, a bit of a Marvel movie. This time it was Doctor Strange. I watched, I munched, I scrambled through some Greek parsing. Not bad, for starters.
But from there the day seemed to plunge into a steeplechase. Did I mention that the post is due today? And the second half of my Thessalonians assignment too? Wait, did we even say that this is the middle of Distance Learning intensives? Or that my mom is selling her house and having a birthday on the same day? What if you tried to carry all your reference books at the same time and pulled your neck? Or got a triggering email from a former pastor during a break from Greek class… could that fit into this day, too?
A steeplechase, I guess I’m trying to say, can get messy.
At 5 p.m. I dumped my books in my hotel room, then walked back out the door. If at that point all I was good for was staring, then I’d stare at the last sunlight while moving my legs.
I walked and fussed over the details of my day, but as I did so, the surroundings kept intruding. I looked down during a snowy stretch and noticed how the snow had saved footprints of dogs and humans who had come before me. I cast my eyes from side to side and found that the grass was bent in perfect sloping shapes, bump after bump after bump. And then there were the twigs. Stems of stripped bushes, twigs of trees high overhead. Every winter I’m always amazed that when they ought to be most lifeless, so many twigs are so… colorful? What is this orange at the tips of the trees? This bare bush so shamelessly red in the evening glow?
And though I don’t have answers, the questions coalesce until, standing by the snow-covered pond, I’m bringing to reorient. Just what are the trees trying to tell me? I remember snatches of the psalms: trees clapping their hands for the Lord, the skies saying something, constantly pouring out speech. They are saying something, I think to myself, if only we—if only I—had had ears to hear it. And that’s when I begin to think about truth. That an orange twig pointed at the sky is saying something true. That, before that triggering email, my Greek teacher pointed down to a verb in I John 1:6 and we suddenly gasped. If we walk in the darkness, the apostle was saying, we do not do the truth. Truth is not fully captured by what you know, truth is sometimes (often?) something you do. Standing outside this makes a lot of sense. The perfect red stems of the bushes are speaking truth, yes, but perhaps it’s just better to say that they are doing truth.
Back in my hotel room I roll into a wad of blankets, munch dinner, and make phone calls. I don’t feel fully recovered but I croon into the phone anyways. “I love youuu!!” I tell my kids, my husband, my mom. I don’t have to feel recovered to mean it because even when I’m tired, it’s all true. I pull out Doctor Strange again for a few minutes. Strange indeed is the magic that tugs tired seminarians into the world of superhero surgeon wizards (if you don’t know, ask some other time…) and makes it delightful. I happen to believe this works this way because though Stephen Strange isn’t real, courage is, and so is humility, and persistence. And certain tired seminarians desperately need reminders of this.
I remember how we watched the Lord of the Rings for the first time in a long time last year and seeing the movies as an adult, jaded and raw from a tumultuous ecclesiastical case, was not at all what I expected. When the credits rolled I turned to my friends and said what my stary-eyed younger self would never have thought to utter. “These are all… true!” I exclaimed. After explaining that, no, I hadn’t gone delusional about Middle-earth, I think I got my friends to understand. As with Doctor Strange, though the details of the story weren’t historical, all the elements that made it meaningful actually were. We knew firsthand that risk and despair and overwhelming odds really do walk the earth. As do courage and comradery and sacrifice. It may not have been real, in one sense, but it was true.
And so after all this, the walk, the calls, the movie snippets, I sat down to write my Kerux post and what did I find? Like following prints in the snow I’d actually been tracking truth all day (or had it been tracking me?). I may not have always had eyes to see them, but there were the impressions right in front of me all along. Truth that was acted out, or written down, or crooned. Or truth simply standing, robed in red, pointing upwards.