Last Christmas, a corner of Chicago’s Wrigley Field was turned into an ice skating rink. Skating on the rink was a far cry from ice skating on a frozen pond as a kid. There, tree roots had to break through the ice and avoid chunks of mud. This was ice straight out of the movie. Sparkly smooth, with regular steamrolls of Zamboni.
I’m not very good at skating, but I manage to stay upright. Although artificial, gliding over ice without friction is magical.
Ironically, the beautiful winter wonderland inside the ballpark was surrounded by a gritty, heavy city. You can feel it as soon as you leave the park. Winter in Chicago can be unforgiving. The dirty snow at the bus stop doesn’t shine like the hot cocoa stand next to the ice.
The situation has been particularly difficult in recent years. Some have been affected by COVID-19, others have lost their jobs. Many people seem tired and overworked. There are so many challenges. There is so much friction. No one glides gracefully through this city.
If all the friction doesn’t trip us up, it can slow us down and help us think about things like the world that Jesus calls us to.
Many places are experiencing friction like Chicago. Life hasn’t been smooth sailing these past few years. We are going through many changes right now in our families, our workplaces, our schools, and even our churches. Regions have changed, industries have changed, and it can all be very uncomfortable.
I began to ask anxious questions such as, “What does it mean to be a good man and an equal partner to a woman now?” or “How can I give more money when the cost of living is rising?” We are being asked to wrestle with the past in new ways.
When I hear the word “friction” I think it’s a bad thing, some kind of conflict. But friction is just a force that opposes motion. It slows down, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. Friction is the reason snow boots grip smooth pavement as you walk.
If all friction does not trip us up, it can slow us down and help us think about the kind of world that Jesus calls us. It is closely related to Epiphany, which is the season.
The Epiphany begins with the bright star of wonder that the sorcerer led to see the newborn Son of God, and ends with the dazzling adult Jesus in shape change on top of a mountain. It is also the season of piercing light that illuminates things that are usually unnoticed. During Epiphany, God hands us a magnifying glass or puts a celestial spotlight on something and says, “Take a closer look.”
Many of us understand that God comforts us, calms us, and brings us peace, but God also upsets us. After calling the first fishermen, Simon Peter and Andrew, to be his disciples, Jesus had a serious discussion with them about generosity, compassion, and justice.
We are the same. Following Jesus is a way of life, and we are challenged as we interact with Christ’s teachings in our lives.
If something makes you feel uncomfortable, this is often a signal that you are being called upon to grow. Friction requires friction. Where are you being called to grow and think deeper? What is God shining on your life right now?