Can we disagree and still be friends?
Lesson #35 that I hope to teach my kids, especially my daughter. (Maybe I’ll list them all one day… if I actually write them down.)
It’s not a myth, or an unattainable attribute that we idealize yet so often flip when we find ourselves in its grasp. It’s easier to drop. walk away. push back. defend. conform and agree. Anything is easier but to listen, stay, and love.
Perhaps you, like me, are resting and wrestling in the tail-end of the beloved gospels this week. Sitting opposite the tomb as men struggle with our Jesus. Running to the room where community awaits. Trekking to Emmaus with a burning heart. Watching the skeptic brother touch His wounds. Praying ears would gather every syllable He says before ascending. Burning fish on the shore. Eating. lots of eating together.
You know, dear friend, not every disciple agreed. Not every disciple trusted and believed. Not every one of the twelve, or even the eleven said, “Yes, our heart is one!” No, those Jews were too human for such perfection.
They argued on who would be the greatest, yes, but I imagine it was much more than that. I suppose they disagreed on where the money went, where they stayed the night or sat at the table. I suppose some left minding to some believed-to-be-urgent business and later returned. I suppose that made some of the others mad. Jealous. Insecure. Prideful.
Sort of like me. Probably, if you’re honest, like you as well.
The eleven disciples didn’t believe Mary when she and the other women burst through the door with the news Jesus was risen. John and Peter ran to check the tomb. Sometime that day, Thomas left. Two other disciples (not from the original 12) left also and headed to Emmaus. They came charging back, of course, with the same astounding news and new revived hearts but Thomas missed their announcement. He wasn’t there. He missed that time Jesus first appeared to the boys, but returned and caught it eight days later.
I wonder what Jesus did during that week of waiting and wondering. I wonder what they all did that week. The eleven, and the 72, and the women, and the mothers, and the children, and the Pharisees turned Jesus lovers, and Pilate’s wife, and the centurion, and the soldiers who guarded the tomb. What about Cleopas’ wife, if he had one. Who was keeping their house in Emmaus when he and his companion invited Jesus to stay a bit longer. Did the women of the house see Jesus break bread as well? Or were they back in Jerusalem with the others? Was there a servant to wash his feet?
What questions grated against Peter’s heart in the days after Jesus rose, yet before his reinstatement. I suppose he was wrecked with agony. Thomas as well. Judas was so wrecked with hopelessness that he left himself hanging from a tree.
I suppose Mary was quite filled with giddiness and joy and perhaps that irritated many others. What a week of anguish and questions, heartache and ecstasy, solid black and white curtains ripped in two leaving a frayed fabric of gray.
Not all good. Not all bad. But both. Not yes or no, but both. Both, and. (As my friend, Marla says.) Or “Yes, And” as Richard Rohr puts it.
There are too many colors for the world to name each one, and there are too many questions for the world to answer each one. Sometimes we just have to live in the gray.
What is constant and stable is the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and His blood redeeming all people. All the theological threads and doctrinal patches are just extras to keep us secure and hopeful to catch more of Jesus.
Peter, James, John, Mary, Thomas, Cleopas, Simon, Nicodemus, Joseph… they didn’t agree on everything but they stayed in community. They returned grace to each other that was learned from their Master. They left space for questions in a safe environment. Judas isolated himself, but Thomas remained in community. He battled his beliefs while belonging.
I supposed the followers of Jesus hid these in their hearts filed with many other questions and confusing stories they heard Him tell. Yet within a few years they would comprehend each blessing with a piercing and personal truth. They, who are the poor in spirit, mourning, humbled and meek, merciful and thirsty for redemption.
Honestly, anyone whose world has been wrecked, whose pride has been stripped away, who has been left venerable and can perhaps self-identify with the Beatitudes will understand what it means to live in the gray.
Blessed are the grays.
We know that no one is better than us. That we are no better than others. That we are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. That we can be friends anyway.
Photo taken years ago by Natalie Watson (Emori's bff Bella and sister, Ava Campbell).