Upside Down and Backwards

by Rebecca Lynne Fullan

In looking at this week’s readings, I feel both comfortable and uncomfortable, familiar and unfamiliar. The readings are full of reversals, and they don’t just slip them in subtly and move on—they insist on these reversals. They dig in their heels and hold on.

In the first reading, trust in human beings yields barrenness and pain, but trust in God yields fertility and life. In the second reading, Paul insists, explicitly and repeatedly, on the ultimate and unlikely reversal of resurrection from the dead. And in the Gospel, Jesus lays out reversals in a seemingly endless parade— what seems good becomes bad and what seems bad, good.

I am left hesitating in the face of these reversals. I mean… I want to trust God, but I want to trust people, too, and sometimes I find that a lot easier. I love the idea of resurrection—Jesus’, yours, mine– but sometimes I feel foolish putting my faith in something so impossible to prove. And my fear of death would belie me greatly if I told you I am totally confident that there is more to come. I love the idea of the poor receiving the kingdom and the hungry receiving food, but I am little frightened about the rich and happy being in line for coming woe. After all, I am not hungry or poor. Sometimes I grieve, and sometimes I laugh, but I think overall I laugh more. What do these reversals—and their demands–mean for me?

I think these readings would urge me onto a roller coaster, if we were friends. I’m ambivalent about roller coasters. Most times I’ve actually ridden them, I’ve had a really good time, but usually, as I watch their convolutions, I decide not to get on. Riding with these readings I am left upside down, looking at a world I somehow have never quite seen this way.

When I moved to New York City, I applied to a job working for Represent, a magazine written by and for youth in foster care. I was very excited about the prospect of this job, but I never heard a word from them. The other day, I was standing near Union Square with Charlotte, and this young man approached us.

“I used to be in foster care,” he said. “I’m 27 now, and I have my own apartment.” Turns out he was selling copies of Represent, and I bought one for three dollars. Before I even read it, his statement kept sticking in my head. I, too, am 27 now, and I have my own apartment. I would not think to say it, to post it at the front of my identity with pride. That was my first clue that I was about to be turned upside down.

Reading the magazine, I felt like a curtain had been peeled away, revealing a world I had not fully imagined before. The sheer number of people foster children have to deal with and navigate among to get their needs met is baffling, even if all of them are doing a fantastic job, which of course is not always the case. I was confronted with tales of bureaucracy so tangled that it became hard for a girl to get a winter coat, with the story of a child sold by his parents, with the sudden understanding that when young people “age out” of foster care at 18 or 21, they may be completely on their own, without financial resources or familial support. Had I been in such a situation at that age, I would probably be on the street today.

When I look at the readings’ reversals in the light of this magazine and my experience with it, they take on a new cast. I did not get the job I wanted—but a stranger offered me its fruit, more than a year later. I am currently worried about money and hoping my rent check will not bounce before my paycheck clears—but I am 27, and I have my own apartment. Although my childhood was hardly perfect, I conceive of childhood as a relatively protected time—but I am confronted by the evidence that many, many people have to claw their way through only to keep on clawing.

I suspect that God calls me to dangle upside down from time to time. I suspect I must both experience reversals and be their agent, and that is no kind of comfortable situation. I suspect this magazine has not come into my hands by chance, that my preoccupation with what it shows me is pulling me somewhere, calling me onward from around a shadowy corner. I even suspect that we both are and will be resurrected, in the most literal and figurative terms.

But it is never what I expect. It is forever reversed, and reversed again. I take in breath. I scream. I hold on and ride, and finish, laughing.

Rebecca Lynne Fullan lives in New York City and likes buying magazines from strangers, except when she doesn’t. She rarely rides roller coasters, except for that one in China that went right out over the water. That one she rode twice.

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One Response

  1. I am glad you allow yourself to be challenged, uncomfortable and that you finish laughing!

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