This has been a divisive couple of weeks. From that superficial rivalry between Chicago vs Cleveland in a game, to this country’s visceral struggle to select a leader.
Division is everywhere—rooted in belief, philosophy, ideology, geography, biology and language.
I’m going to go through a list and as I do be aware what words come to mind.
- That place
- That person
- That church
- That community
- Those places
- Those people
- Those churches
- Those communities
That and Those. I’m curious to know what came into your mind. For me, words like outside, distance, comparison, judgment, envy, and separation bubbled up.
Now, I’ll read a different list. Again, be aware of words that come to mind.
- This place
- This person
- This church
- This community
- These places
- These people
- These churches
- These communities
This and These. Words like inside, connected, judgement, belonging, proximate, together, and presence come to mind.
That, Those, This and These are examples of ‘determiners’. Come back to middle school English class with me for a moment—“a determiner is modifying word that determines the kind of reference a noun or noun group has.”
I’d like to talk for a couple minutes about Why determiners matter, how determiners can change, and how this fits with Jobs for Life (JfL).
I do it. I feel it. I determine another as that person and other places as those places, and I’ve known others have determined me to be ‘that’ and the places I hang out as ‘those.’ To varying degrees, you know what I’m talking about. I think in many contexts determiners strip humanity.
At JfL we think that a lot of individual, community and societal problems start with, and are perpetuated and often exacerbated by people believing they don’t belong and that they don’t matter because they are that person who lives in those places. Determiners matter.
Then how does a ‘that person’ become a ‘this person’? How do those places become these places?
Based on my experiences, I’d suggest there must be physical movement. Close proximity is required. This can be inconvenient and uncomfortable – it can be frustrating and even scary. It could mean navigating a long and steep driveway in Brentwood or attending a Church in a jail. It’s called showing up. New perspectives and greater Truth often come from showing up. And when done with the same those people and in the same that place over time, frustrations and challenges will remain, but understanding, appreciation and eventual comfort often follow.
That and those just became this and these.
What happens next? Well, I’ve found showing up over time with the same people can be a long but slippery slope to authentic and healthy relationship. Humanity added to determiners leads to possessive pronouns (*actually possessive adjectives, but ‘pronoun’ sounded better*). These people and this community become my friends, my sisters, my brothers, our community. Your joys are real joys because they are my joys. My problems are now real problems because they are your problems. We are now doing life, together. Now that waxes and wanes – but it is of God.
From that and those to this and these, to my and ours. That’s the journey we talk about at JfL.
You see at Jobs for Life we seek to provide a guided journey and tool to foster the relationship-building process in community across communities. To create space for friendships to start. Relationships are the focus and good work, which reinforces a sense of value and belonging to community is the cherry on top. The broader local network is also part of the story. A JfL breakfast, a JfL bus trip, a JfL class and JfL City Celebration, just hanging out—it is about a journey to deeper relationship.
I’ve come to see and believe that the greater the gap that exists between two people or communities, the bigger the God that comes in to bridge it.
Never forget Christ determined our value, got uncomfortable, showed up and called us His own.
It’s the Kingdom of God.