I refuse to say good-bye to most anyone these days, to friends who move away, to co-workers who change jobs, to my cat who is dying. I find the older I get the more permanent the salutation. I am at a point in this journey where our fragility has become shockingly clear. I want to rally against the impermanence of life, including my faith, and my hope. I feel impotent, sitting on my worn couch, reeling from the news of another mass shooting, and yet I am not surprised.
How did I become so callous? I channel all my emotion into the wrong narratives. A house plant dies and I feel like I need a Xanax and a good therapist. When I turn to scripture, it’s like chewing on stale bread, the stories seem strangely inapplicable, and unappealing. Where the hell are all the Good Samaritans? I feel like the priest who was too busy to stop and help. I realize the word of God is not a shield, it should be imbedded in my heart, and visible through my actions and words. Yet I sit here adrift in a fatal fog of apathy.
I know not what to do? Sobbing on the sofa, writing meaningless tweets, and sarcastic blogs only displaces my anger. It will not solve the problems of this world. So what will? On the news they were reporting all the texts messages sent from Pulse on the night of the massacre were about love. “Mama, I love you.” Not one victim wasted a second of their time on hatred. Thomas Merton says, “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and the heart has turned to stone.” I can relate, as if a stone, I have laid on the field of despair, where only silence can bear the weight of my burdens.
We all harbor deep scars of loss, disappointment, and regret. This is our common ground. How would we live if we could see the hideous scars on the hearts of each other? Hamlet’s most famous line, “To thine own self be true,” is Polonius’s last piece of advice to his child. Remain loyal to that which is written on your own heart. We must be able to live out our truth with dignity or our purpose in this life will not be fullfilled. I do not know how to alleviate the human condition, I feel inept in my pursuits, but these words from second Peter gave me pause, “Since all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be?”
All these things are to be dissolved? I assume this includes possessions, power, and prestige, but also biases, bedlams, and beliefs. If we lose the b’s and p’s what do we have left? All that remains is love. I understand this on a proverbial level, but sometimes I don’t have the energy, or desire to remain in a place of love. I can postulate about our meaningless conflicts, or the impermanence of all things, but I repeatedly fail to love. Hatred, jealousy, and envy are cancerous to the entire body, but my apathy is also part of the contagion. Is there a cure?
“When boiled down to its essence, unforgiveness is hatred.” John R. Rice
There are seven things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16), haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in his own family.” I have been guilty of most of these at one time or another. I parade around in my Sunday best, claiming to see the light, but the truth is I am blind, and have no idea where I’m going. Stumbling around in the dark, I’ve found kindred souls to love, but I think it is time to significantly widen the circle. The new commandment requires us to love God and neighbor as one. My anxiety is ignited by such an implausible statute. I am told, “Be anxious for nothing, present your requests to God, and a peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind.” (Philippians 4:7) I pray this is true.
As I search for a way to be in an imperfect world I find peace in this snipped from Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pick up that which is planted; a time to hate, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” This I can wrap my head around. Because right now I might be mourning but I look forward to the time when I will dance.