I recently bought a set of dining room chairs at a yard sale, and, honestly, it may have been a mistake. They were already old and well used way back when they went into the storage unit from which they were dragged for this sale. They didn’t cost much at all, but I’m not sure if they were really worth even the little I paid for them. They’re made of walnut and walnut veneer, and the fabric upholstery on the seats is very worn and dated. They’re kind of mid century modern, kind of art deco. Many of the joints are loose, some of the veneer is missing, and all of it will have to be refinished. If we had already had dining room chairs I probably would not even have looked at these.
But I kind of love them. In fact, the more time I spend on them with their past and potential coming into focus, the more I love them . . . and the more I hate the condition they’re in.
Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is freighted with a lot of meaning. It means, at least in part, the proper, complete, perfect ordering of things. You see a set of faded and decrepit chairs on a lawn as an affront to Shalom when you’re shown a picture of the same chairs in their original condition being used by a family at table eating a nourishing meal. That’s when your allegiance to Shalom prompts you to either concede that the chairs are a lost cause and toss them in the fire, or to take up your tools and do what you can to bring the crumbling reality of the chairs in front of you back to what they had been designed to be. My commitment to Shalom and my love for these chairs produces an inescapable tension that can only be resolved through either violence or redemptive work.
And so it is with Vermont. I’m very happy here in the Green Mountain State, but I would be a lot happier if I had less of an appreciation for Shalom. I kind of wish I was less aware of what a rightly ordered Vermont would look like, or of all the ways that Vermont falls short of that right ordering. But as it is my commitment to Shalom and my love of Vermont produces a tension I feel every day. And that tension demands to be resolved either violently or redemptively. And we will always choose redemption.
We choose redemption because it is the choice that Jesus made in regard to us. He looked at me and felt the tension I experienced when looking at my "new" set of chairs, except that these chairs are much closer to their ideal state now than I have ever been to mine. But Jesus, loving me, is committed to redeeming me and I will forever be grateful.
In that spirit, here are five things you can do to love the Vermont that ought to be while living in the Vermont that is.
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