|Photo credit Bonny McClain|
I confess to an unwarranted love of storytelling, even though I put myself through hell before putting my butt in a chair, and actually writing. I’m willing to do just about anything to avoid staring at a blank page, including organizing the bathroom cupboards, cleaning under the kitchen sink, or heaven for bid tackling my disorderly gift wrap cabinet.
But today is different.
I couldn’t find sleep last night and then I couldn’t get out of bed this morning. I wanted to hibernate under the covers, stay tucked in the sanctuary of this linen womb, because right now the outside world seems menacing.
I want to put a Do Not Disturbsign on my front door and chill with I Love Lucy reruns, coffee, and Oreo cookies.
“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Toni Morrison
Today when our communal safety has been breached, and our sense of wellbeing severely impaired, I find it nearly impossible to find the right words to write. My fear of offending is real but my apathy is even worse.
I grow indifferent to prayer, books, and the rituals that used to invigorate me because they seem meaningless in the wake of such violence? Instead of presence and love there is only injury and loss.
What can I possibly write that offers a smidgen of hope in the wake of such brutality, mayhem, and slaughter. Bonny McClain writes, “I start most days running and writing. Those are the best days. Often we have to trust the ritual. Even if we feel like there is nothing to say.”
I lackadaisically browse the scriptures for applicable, relevant, apposite messages, but other than assurances that God is capable of walking on water to join us during a terrifying storm, I find little comfort in the words, “Do not be afraid, it is I.” (John 6)
“Anger is the choice of many. Anger at politicians. Anger at the NRA. Anger at God. We become bitter and sour toward this world; toward one another,” says Max Lucado but adds, “fear is another option. Lock the doors and close the windows. Avoid every shadow and dark alley.”
I struggle with my anger, but also my faith, I’m consumed with a spiritual apprehension that we have massacred all that is good and holy with our self righteous rhetoric and divisive practices.
Henri Nouwen says, when we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
Will we ever have a community that is spacious enough for everyone? I don’t mean space per se, I mean holding space for each other, especially those who feel rejected by society.
There is this odd fear that seeps into my veins when I’m scared, I start thinking in terms of limitations, limited resources, limited talent, even limited success. This sort of mentality says if you win I lose, if you lose I win. But over and over again I have been shown this is simply not true, there is always enough, even an abundance if we learn to share, applaud, and celebrate one another. Our problem might have more to do with greed, privilege, and a lust for power than a matter of scarcity.
Brene Brown says, “I went to church thinking it would be like an epidural, that it would take the pain away… But church is not like an epidural; it’s like a midwife… I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort, but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.'”
All I want is to numb myself, pull the covers over my head, and sink into a mild depression, but Brene claims our faith will sit with us in our deepest despair. Therefore faith is not a drug, it’s a companion, a fearless advocate of the heart.
I read an article by Christian Picciolini, a reformed white nationalist who warned, “it’s going to get worse.” I wanted to stop reading right then and there, but as if a rubbernecker, I was compelled to keep looking.
Christian Picciolini joined a neo-Nazi movement 30 years ago and now tries to get people out of these organizations or mind sets. He says, the white-supremacist terrorists—the ones who have left dozens dead in attacks in Gilroy California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio recently—aren’t just trying to outdo one another, “they’re trying to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the anti-government terrorist who blew up an Oklahoma City federal building and killed more than 100 people in 1995.”
That’s not very hopeful, in fact it’s down right frightening, we’re living with people who have a king of the mountain sort of mentality, and I’m afraid we’re trying to put a bandaid on a infected, oozing, mortal wound that is not survivable.
Picciolini says if you’re an addict, abused, or homeless there are services for that, but if you’re struggling with ideas of hate, there is not much out there. He says he listens for potholes: things that happen to us in our journey of life that detour us, things like trauma, abuse, mental illness, poverty, joblessness. Even privilege can be a pothole that detours us. As he listens, rather than confront them about their ideology, he creates rapport, and starts to fill in those potholes. He says nobody is born racist; we all found it.
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but refuse to hate him. Martin Luther King Jr.
As Rachel Held Evens once wrote, “I worry that I am missing out on a God who surprises us by showing up where we don’t think God belongs. I worry that I’m missing out on a God whose grace I need… She goes on to say cynicism may help us create a simpler storyline with good guys and bad guys, but it doesn’t make up any better at telling the truth, which is that most of us are a frightening mix of good and evil, sinner and saint.”
It’s hard to be a human, God’s first creation screwed up so badly they got kicked out of the garden, and then God tried to drown the rest of us in a gigantic flood. It was not looking good for humanity, but against all odds we’re still here, so why is evil appear to be metastasizing?
When we deny people a sense of identity, community and purpose through human apathy or neglect or bullying then they will find it somewhere else, on the fringes of society, with those who have formed ungodly alliances, who have succumbed to cynical propaganda, who are now enacting our worst nightmares.
If we actually image the divine in some way, if collectively we are the soul of God, then we have to acknowledge the parts that are suffering, because as Martin Luther King Jr. warns, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Even though I feel directionless, I am going to stay invested, I’m going to risk being vulnerable, I’m going to keep looking deeper until I stumble on the truth. If our love for each other is triune in nature, then our love is an action, not one that hides under the pillow. Damn.
Toni Morrison says love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it.
Today might be dark, but I have to believe God taping us on our collective shoulder, asking for our undivided attention (did you catch that), demanding that we be disturbed, disordered, maybe even disrupted by these acts of enmity.
New life starts in the dark, says Barbara Brown Taylor, whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.
So how do we resurrect a bullet in the dark barrel of a gun?
Charli Mills offers, “if you want to DO something today that changes the mess our world is in? Want to express your thoughts to others, share your concerns and hopes, be vulnerable, and speak up as a citizen of a democratic nation?”
Mills answers, “then mind what you say, how you say it, why you say it, and practice patience and kindness. Don’t let others speak for you. Find your own words. If you use quotes or share articles or memes, explain your thoughts on the topic without resorting to blame or superiority or exclusivity.”
Mills challenges, “for just one day, don’t blame anyone or anything. Instead, build up someone or something. Then try it tomorrow, and every other tomorrow you are blessed to have.”
“Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic…but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.” Anne Lamott
That which is most grievous needs to be recognized, called out, confronted, overcome, and survived. This is how we triumph over evil. “Show up. Open every door. At the risk of looking like a fool buried with his feet facing the East or like a mockingbird singing stubbornly at the night, we should anticipate resurrection,” says Rachel Held Evans.
She says we should anticipate resurrection…this is why we rise from our linen womb, graciously fill the potholes, and allow goodness to prevail.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, after we weep we’ll walk arm and arm to the gym.
- The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Toni Morrison
- “There is nothing sane, merciful, heroic, devout, redemptive, wise, holy, loving, peaceful, joyous, righteous, gracious, remotely spiritual, or worthy of praise where mass murder is concerned. We have been in this world long enough to know that by now and to understand that nonviolent conflict resolution informed by mutual compassion is the far better option.” Aberjhani
- “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed our soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.” Anne Lamott