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Grace, Too

Hi folks. It’s been over a month since I posted anything here. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before in the eleven-and-a-half years of this blog’s existence, but it certainly feels strange to me. There’s no grand reason for the silence other than the usual suspects. A bit of writers’ block, a dearth of inspiration, bit of generalized fatigue, a summer holiday followed by an immediate jump into the deep end of the pool in church ministry. It’s been a stretch of time where time and energy have seemed a bit thin and where the words seem harder in coming than usual.

There’s also this ongoing pandemic. Obviously. Like many, perhaps, I had naively hoped that September 2021 would feel more normal than September 2020. This has not turned out to be the case. In many ways, it feels worse. Last fall I remember feeling at least cautiously optimistic. This fall, it seems like we’re spinning our wheels or going in reverse or… something. The emotional intensity seems to have been ratcheted up a few notches. Everything is less certain and more polarized. People seem angrier and more exhausted. Everyone wants to talk, and few want to listen. Nobody knows what’s going on or when this will end. If last fall it felt like we were still kinda, sorta all pulling on the same rope in the same direction, this year it feels like the rope is frayed and being stretched in all kinds of different directions. And that it might snap.

I can’t think of a single person in any position of leadership in any institution right now who isn’t struggling. I’m sure there are blessed exceptions out there, but they are surely few and far between. There is decision-fatigue and uncertainty. There’s genuine fear about the Delta variant and how it might change the game. There’s an inability to plan beyond the next week or two. There’s the challenge of negotiating an at times wildly divergent set of opinions about how the institution should be addressing questions of masking, vaccination requirements, hygiene, distancing, etc. And all of this takes place—at least here in Alberta—in a political context where policies flip flop with bewildering regularity and where clear and coherent guidance often seems lacking. Oh, and there is (inexplicably) a federal election going on in the middle of all this. Which usually tends to bring people together in all kinds of warm and fuzzy ways. Err… A number of pastors and other leaders have whispered to me privately that they have had resignation letters half-written for over a year. It’s not hard to see why.

This was supposed to be a quick update on my relative silence here on the blog, but it has morphed into something of a convoluted plea for grace. Throughout this past year, we’ve heard innumerable saccharine exhortations to “be kind, be calm, be safe,” etc. I think this fine advice as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Grace is a better word. It has theological weight and density. It holds more promise. It speaks of the choice to extend mercy and goodwill to our neighbours—even the idiots who don’t think like we do, even when we don’t want to, even when it would be far more satisfying and cathartic to mock and belittle them. Grace is among the basic requirements for negotiating anything resembling a shared life together in the context of real difference and competing goods.

To that end, I wish you grace during these early days of fall. You’ll need it and you’ll need to extend it. I hope to resume a more normal writing rhythm here shortly.


The title of this post comes from a song of the same name by The Tragically Hip. I chose it for no better reason than it was playing in my headphones when I was about to press “publish.” 🙂

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. An exhausted ‘amen’.

    September 15, 2021
  2. howard wideman #

    And now mu variant. This virus is smart and we need a concerted planetary effort to eradicate it. I will b driving Mary brother motorhome to delta bc. Probably through Calgary kickinghorse pass. Next week 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    September 15, 2021
  3. Jason Lamb #

    Thanks Ryan

    September 16, 2021
  4. Gil #

    Thanks Ryan, you speak for many and we’re glad you are still speaking….

    September 16, 2021
  5. And what if the sentiments expressed here, grossly underestimate the reality of our predicament? Then what?

    Was it an abscence of grace on their part ( to name just a few) that decimated Indiginous, Armenian, Jewish, Kulak, Ukranian, Chinese, Cambodian, Bosnian, Tutsi and Uyghur populations?

    Consider genocide for a moment and then tell me what, “negotiating a shared life together” even means.

    September 16, 2021
  6. Elizabeth #

    Thank you for the plea and the reminder. It’s okay to take time and regroup. Your supporters will be here. Always stay strong and true to yourself and ignore the prodders!

    September 21, 2021
    • I don’t demand anything of you, Ryan, or any of the rest of your readership, though I would suggest that your second paragraph reads as a more comprehensive perspective then you seem to be allowing for, now.

      At any rate, it puzzles me that you seem dismissive of a pandemic perspective comment written in response to post that frames a pandemic perspective.

      You are right to sense a confrontational tone to some of what I write here (and will continue to write here as long as you allow me the priviledge).

      You say, “the rope is frayed….and may snap”. I say the rope, “snapped” in March of 2020 and we are falling inexorably towards corporate dictatorship and a new world order. Among the many casualties, will be our faith, unless we stand convicted and strong.

      For those of us who see the war as having already begun, we can no longer remain silent. We must say, what we believe, the Spirit of Truth compels us to say, anywhere we know two or more are gathered in his name.

      His peace be with you always.

      September 22, 2021
      • I’m not dismissive, I just honestly don’t know what you expect me to say. Am I deeply unsettled by how COVID has been politicized? Am I unsure about many of the restrictions and directives that have come out over the last year? Do I wonder how to interpret it all? Do I have apprehension about where this train is going? Yes to all of the above. I’m not nearly as convinced as you seem to be about these things, but I certainly have concerns.

        And so we’re back to where we often seem to end up. You are critical of what I write here because it’s not what you want me to write about, or it’s not written with sufficient authority or spirituality or conviction or alarmism or_______. That’s fine. You’re obviously entitled to your opinion. But I’m also allowed to not engage, right?

        September 24, 2021
  7. A, “prodder” !… I like it. Useful term. Noble occupation. 🙂

    Recent UN figures estimate close to a billion people will suffer from inadequate food supplies this year. As many as 250,000,000 people in over 93 countries will not receive enough food to maintain basic health. Varying degrees of starvation that will lead to tens of millions of chronic, life shortening illnesses and millions of deaths.

    Unlike, Sars Cov-2, the brunt of these deadly health impacts are disproportionately suffered by the young.

    We will be told, and will likely tell ourselves, that this is a result of man made, climate catastrophes. This is a lie. It is a consequence of our collective, long standing indifference to mass starvation and to the destruction of essential food supply lines, as a consequence of world wide lockdown policies.

    Many, many more people (and mostly the young) will suffer disease and die as a consequence of the policies most of us supported and demanded during the pandemic, then from the pandemic itself. That was always going to be the case.

    That’s ok though, they are poor and unknown to us. They will die in ignominy, out of sight; out of mind, as the saying goes….and supposed, “People of God” worry and labour over, “half written letters of resignation”….

    Even more incredulously, many supposed Christians no longer believe in Satan, Hell or their own propensity for an indifference so egregious, we wind up serving the former and creating the latter.

    War is here. Christ is coming.

    “Christ like” love, forgiveness, mercy and sacrifice are the only true paths, home.

    Keep faith. When God is with you, nothing stands against you. 🙂

    September 21, 2021
    • Elizabeth #

      Sort of a “Chicken Little” theory. You aren’t saying anything that hasn’t been said since forever. Perhaps instead of stirring things up and attempting to appear brilliant, you could focus your energies on physically making a difference instead of giving lip. Maybe you already are?

      You always seem to take Ryan’s posts and redefine them. Personally, I come here to read Ryan – not you. I am expecting a huge response to this, that I’m not planning on reading. It’s clear you take cyber bullying seriously, always drawing lines and challenging.

      I’m probably never going to comment again because I’m guaranteed a peace of your mind as well.
      #getyourownblog #whodoyouthinkyouare

      September 21, 2021
      • Elizabeth, I hope you’ll continue to contribute here. I appreciate your comments.

        I’ve been blogging for quite a while now and I’ve learned that there are always going to be people who don’t like what I say or who interpret in ways that I think are uncharitable or who take things in directions not intended, etc. I’m ok with that. I really am.

        September 21, 2021
      • A catastrophy of human suffering likely matters more than any of our sensitivities, Elizabeth.

        September 21, 2021
      • A fairly innocuous update on a blogging absence combined with a bit of personal reflection on how the pandemic is affecting me and those in my orbit is perhaps not the most obvious context to demand a comprehensive reckoning on the myriad causes of global suffering.

        September 22, 2021
  8. Emery Dueck #

    We’ll said

    September 21, 2021
  9. We are all free to decide, who and what we engage with Ryan. Please continue to excercise, godly inspiration and descretion. Truth is advanced and grace abounds, when we do.

    September 26, 2021

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