Tuesday, April 27, 2010

a half-born condition

if i’m reading something other than fiction, it is usually because geoff has convinced me with a fair amount of cajoling that a book is worth my time.  i didn’t need any form of convincing to start into jonathan wilson-hartgrove’s new book “the wisdom of stability.”

just from the first chapter alone, i feel like his gentle words (which read just like the sound of the slow drawl of his southern accent) resonate with a place in me that is still unresolved yet full of hope about the stability that can come from life in community.  in one passage, jonathan quotes a saint of christian community, clarence jordan of the interracial community called koinonia farm in my home state of georgia.  about the rising and falling tides of their life together, jordan claims, “this is what always baffles me.  koinonia is forever dying and forever living.  we should have conked out long ago, but somehow others came in the nick of time.  this half-born condition is agonizing, and i could wish it otherwise, but there it is.”


jonathan goes on to reflect, “stability in community is always a half-born condition.  we are suspended between heaven and earth on a ladder that promises communion with god but is also planted firmly on the ground…stability is a commitment to trust god not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know.  if real life with god can happen anywhere at all, then it can happen here among the people whose troubles are already evident to us…community is always a risk.  we cannot know beforehand who will stay and who will leave.  but each decision to stay – every prayer lifted up from our half-born condition – can be seen as an act of faith that our god will give us what we need, as clarence jordan said, ‘in the nick of time.’”

while reading this, i couldn’t help but recall the rich and mysterious observations of wendell berry in his “unsettling of america” in which he depicts this same kind of half-born condition from the lens of the condition of soil, “if healthy soil is full of death it is also full of life…nothing that dies is dead for very long. within this powerful economy, it seems that death occurs only for the good of life.”  these things seep in slowly for me and help recast my sense of the last decade of life in this place with these people of communality, those still here, those long gone.  i certainly receive the paradox and greyness of it all far better than a few years ago.  i’m glad jonathan’s book about stability will give company, comfort and weight to this journey.


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