The Antidote

by Abigail Conley

“You two are the reason Amazon is working on drones,” he says, laughing. His wife and I nod in agreement. For the most part, we’ve given up scouring stores and instead scour the Internet. She sticks to Amazon Prime. I prefer PrimeNow, but use it only when I have free credits. I do have a budget after all. I keep a few PrimePantry credits on hand. Occasionally, I’ll opt into slower shipping for the digital download credit. My love of free stuff and my desire to have things right away are often at odds.

I’m an old millennial who has no interest in SnapChat. I do summon Uber and Lyft if I need a ride, though. My food is ordered on GrubHub, available in Phoenix before Seamless was. Postmates is the backup plan if I want something else. The cat’s food and litter are delivered courtesy of Chewy. At work, I often give up on trying to use the landline and pick up my cellphone instead.

The world, it seems, is literally at my fingertips. For the most part, I no longer run to Target for something; a few clicks mean it shows up at my doorstep in a couple hours or a couple days. Scheduling flights, hotels, just about anything, is just as easy. Many baby boomers marvel at this world. “We need…” they’ll say in a church meeting. “It’ll be here on Wednesday,” is my response. I catch myself being frustrated if something isn’t available for digital download or will take longer than two days to arrive.

Once, I remember a conversation with a baby boomer pastor, as I complained about ordering something. “You have to pay for resources like that,” she said. The fight I wasn’t willing to have, “But it should be available for instant download. I can’t wait a week for it.” In that case, it was true; a week later would be too late.

I readily confess that Christian faith means playing the long game. I have no idea what that means in the world I live in. I mean, I no longer have the patience for commercials, much less the glacial turns of history. This year, as the Revised Common Lectionary follows Matthew, I’ve been especially aware of Matthew’s obsession with quoting prophets. He appeals to something ancient to prove the validity of the experience of Christ.

“Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,/And they will call him, ‘Emmanuel.’” Matthew 1:23 & Isaiah 7:14

“You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,/because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.” Matthew 2 & Micah 5:2

“Out of Egypt I have called my son.” Matthew 2:15& Hosea 1:1

The list goes on and on, throughout Matthew, as the Gospel writer calls forth ancient voices to cry out with the people in his world, “See what God is doing!”

Not quite two thousand years later, I have people reading Matthew, shouting, “If this is the promise, why hasn’t God done it yet?” My initial tendency is to join their anger. Why is there still so much pain? Why is there still so much violence? Why? Why? Why? The response that comes from somewhere beyond me is, “It’s coming.”

I feel the weariness of waiting some Sunday mornings, when I head to worship for what seems like one in countless times. The truth is, I probably haven’t even hit two thousand worship services, yet. The truth is, the people I encounter in that place create an organism—dare I say the Body of Christ?—that is both timeless and formed at a single moment in time.

In the best, Spirit-breathed moments, I wonder if this thing called Church is the antidote I don’t know I need. Like most medicine, it’s not always pleasant.

Still, it is Church that bids me to ask for a ride from a friend, not summon a stranger who is part of the 1099, no benefits economy. It is Church that bids me to come, to eat, with people, not from a take-out container in front of the TV. The young adults who care for my cat when I’m out of town are from Church, too. It is Church that has taught me to pick up the phone, not just send a text; tone is not so nearly misconstrued over the phone. It is Church that calls me into a way of being that is so different from what I would choose on my own.

It is Church, this antidote, that also says, “Wait! Listen!” and calls out anew even in the midst of ancient voices.

And so, I lay down my phone, and hope.

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