Over the 40-odd years I’ve known him, my friend Gary has assiduously documented time with friends through photographs. They have to be just right, to capture the moment. His obsessive planning and posing of shots can get on your last nerve.
Jesus gives his apostles, and us, power to bind and to loose, to hold on and to let go. It’s hard to learn when and how to use these powers. Paul, for instance, with an eye to advancement in the religious hierarchy, spent the first part of his life accumulating the credentials of a committed and competent Pharisee. He held on to them for dear life. Later he learned to let go, not by doing so himself but by virtue of the risen Christ having snatched his cherished credentials out of his grasp. In their absence, Paul learned to hold tight to his relationships, with Christ and his people, instead.
By Paul’s standards, Gary got things backward. He held tight to his relationships in the first half of his life. At about 50, he started taking credentials seriously, getting an advanced degree in acupuncture and opening a practice. Sometimes he regrets having reversed the normal order of things: “I’m going to have to work until I’m dead”, he likes to say. On the other hand, he figured out what takes precedence in binding and loosing early on, and still has this priority in place – the photographic documentation (still kind of annoying) continues apace. So if he dies at 95 in the midst of administering a treatment, he’ll probably have recently refreshed his failing memory by looking at some pictures and recalling special moments with friends. One could do (a lot) worse.
Thanks to friends who have shared the writings of Richard Rohr with me; they prompted some thinking about Gary (and myself) from Rohr’s “first and second half of life” perspective.