This is something I never thought I’d hear myself say, but now “berm” has become part of my current vocabulary as I unexpectedly experienced “life on the berm” this past weekend. I shared this new experience with my two sisters, which made being banished quite tolerable, enjoyable actually, if I am honest about my brief experience of “living on the berm.” It wasn’t that bad, although it was totally unforeseen. We had no idea that we were going to be “bermed.” Therefore, we were not properly prepared mentally or physically for the experience. Had we known we might have brought a blanket and binoculars, and I would say maybe dressed differently, except in this case, we were all properly attired for the berm, even without being forewarned of the experience that awaited us.
Now there are all kinds of “berms” in life, so perhaps at this point some clarification of the situation would suffice to explain the particular “berm experience” I shared with my sisters only two days ago. With time, memories do tend to dim, to fade, to be forgotten altogether or to need fact checking, or they tend to take the opposite trajectory, becoming embellished tales over time, while in the immediate aftermath of the experience, the retelling is the truest.
So let me tell you about being banished to the berm, while it is still fresh in my mind and memory. Now, I do not recall “the berm” being a part of our long laid plans for this special sisters’ weekend and there is a good reason for that – it was never included in our plans. Berm isn’t even a word I’ve had occasion to use in recent memory as I navigate my everyday life – until berm became the word of the weekend due to circumstances beyond our control – circumstances that originated from a mistake, a human mistake, simple human error. And then the dominos fell.
We arrived at the football stadium early so as not to miss seeing the cheerleaders’ entrance prior to the Big 12 Conference football game. Why was this so important? Because we were there to see our niece/daughter cheer for the Baylor Bears. And as family members of a cheerleader, we believed our tickets to be in a special section of the football stadium, one in which other family members had been seated for previous games.
So imagine our surprise when we picked up our tickets outside the gate and discovered they were tickets for the “berm.” Now a “berm” can take different forms as in the berm on the side of the road or the berm along the beach, usually a flat strip of land although another definition of berm says “a mound or wall of earth or sand a landscaped berm” – our berm was the latter. We were definitely on a mound in that there was a slope but we were not at the beach – no sand. Our berm was the proverbial grassy knoll, but very family friendly because in order to bring anything into the stadium or into the berm, it had to be carried in a clear plastic bag.
So our grassy knoll, our berm, was safe. (it was not of the JFK genre) It was safe, but we were sidelined (pun intended) for this college football game. Ironically, the stands along the sides of the field provide the better view of the game, so in this case being literally sidelined would be a good thing. But we berm dwellers were metaphorically sidelined, which in football means the end zone – an interesting, if not sought after place from which to view the game, let me tell you.
We had been bermed, and we made the best of it. The weather was perfect. It was a lovely fall day, warm and sunny, so we didn’t have to worry about rain making our grassy knoll wet and muddy. We had shade and we were close to concessions and restrooms. Full disclosure though, I did just mention that our bermdom was a safe place and this is true enough. The exceptions to this occurred when extra points or field goals were being kicked in our direction. The nets went up in preparation each time, of course, but every time the football found its way over the safety net and into the hands of one of the many delighted bermmite Bear fans, eagerly vying for position so that they might be the one to catch the football that the safety net had failed to intercept.
This was as entertaining as the game itself. Our fellow bermmitians were as considerate as they were enthusiastic in their cheering on of the Bears, so Bermdom turned out to be a pretty good place in which to spend a Saturday afternoon. It was like being on a picnic, except not being forewarned, we hadn’t brought a blanket. But the grass cushioned the ground sufficiently enough that it didn’t really matter. Binoculars, however, would have come in handy. It is a big stadium and the cheerleaders are stationed in front of the fans in the stands – not those of us cheering from the berm – a.k.a. – the grassy knoll beyond the End Zone.
We wanted to keep tabs on the cheerleaders and watch them do their precision stunts and routines. As they rotated around the arena, my niece’s group was in front of the stands closest to the berm end of the field for some of the game and we could see her being lifted high in the air, along with others, as the crowd cheered. Keeping track of her from the berm was a challenge, as was watching the actual football game from the perspective provided by the berm.
And I have to say, the game does look different from the berm. Perspective or viewpoint makes a huge difference in our understanding of what is taking place right before our eyes. That turns out to be true of watching football from the berm as well. You don’t see the plays opening up like you do with a full field view the higher sideline stands provide. You don’t see the whole picture as the play unfolds when you are watching from the berm. We would see the end result when the down and yards were announced and we could turn around and watch replays on the big screen behind us. (a perfect example of hind sight being twenty-twenty)
Our experience was defined by the limited perspective afforded us from our position as citizens of the bermdom. We also discovered very quickly that there were no open borders between the berm and the rest of the stadium. Our tickets provided us access to the berm only. We had no access to any part of the stadium. We could see the people in the stands, hear them cheering, watch them wildly waving their towels – we could watch the marching band and hear its music, we could hear all the announcements, we could witness it all – the fireworks, the flyover, the football players running onto the field – we just could not enter into any aspect of the game through the stadium – for this game we were banished to the berm exclusively.
Do you ever feel like this in life, dear readers? Feel like you have been relegated to the sidelines, while you watch everyone else play, participate and pass by? Perhaps that is more of a berm of the highway experience, but also true of the berm of life. It is easy to feel you have been overlooked or banished to the berm, the sidelines of everyday life. You came to participate, but your ticket is to the berm instead of the main venue. You can watch but you are denied access, just like my sisters and I were denied access to the “big” venue – we had to watch from the “little” vantage point of the berm – located at the end of the End Zone. (the next “zone” after that is the parking lot)
How glad I am that in my Heavenly Father’s kingdom I am not banished to the berm of life. In fact Jesus said,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) And that full life includes an all access pass to my Creator, who is available twenty-four/seven to receive me.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)
“Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2)
God has not banished me to the berm, a berm with no access nor admittance into His presence. Instead, God has made a way for me to enter into His presence and live my life there. I read in John 14:6,
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ”
and the really good news is this – Jesus said,
“whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
Jesus will never banish me nor you, dear readers, to the berm. We don’t have to live life on the outside looking in. Jesus invites us in. When we accept that invitation we can say along with King David,
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
thank You, Lord, that You offer access and redemption to all – the overlooked, the outcast, even the bermed –
sincerely, Grace Day