I don’t know about you, but my heart can’t take much more. It’s battered and bruised… And bracing for worse.
It feels like 2020 could be the year of our undoing.
Collectively, we were already reeling from the deadly destruction/ ecomomic devastation/overwhelming despair of COVID…
And then came three consecutive stories of black Americans killed… for no apparent reason.
Amaud Arbery… out for a run.
Breonna Taylor… in her own home.
George Floyd… pinned to the street, gasping for air.
Three human beings created in God’s image… beautiful and beloved, all.
I haven’t seen the video of George Floyd’s last minutes. I cannot bring myself to watch it. (Because just reading about it nearly gutted me.)
A Gospel-sharing, bridge-building, neighbor-loving “gentle giant,” George Floyd took his last breath on earth Monday. Now he’s safely home in heaven with Jesus… and his mama.
But his death begs the question:
How are we still here? In America? In 2020?!
Stuck in this cesspool of racism, injustice and needless violence?
I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to stay afloat. The flood of emotions is coming fast and furious. I’m grappling/praying/hurting/ fuming/crying/pleading/grieving. Deeply. Sometimes all in the space of five minutes. But the deepest, darkest valley I keep finding myself in is… fear.
I’m afraid for the people I love whose skin just happens to be darker than mine.
Afraid they will encounter the wrong person at the wrong time… and wind up injured.
And that’s why I can’t just sign a petition or post a meme and move on. I know I need to ask God’s Spirit to search me and uproot my own prejudices and pre-judgments. I need to confess my own predisposition to dismiss or devalue some of my neighbors. I need to pray against my tendency toward complacency-by-comfortableness.
I need to listen more, learn more, do more. Where I can, when I can, however I can. Because…
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)
A couple days ago, I re-read Reverend King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to some of his fellow clergymen. His words are haunting:
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…
He goes on to write:
In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
Oh LORD, help me be bold for you. Because…
Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. ~ Psalm 89:14 (NET)
Help me be brave for my neighbor. Because…
No life is more “valuable” than another. (No life is more “disposable” either.) Our immeasurable worth is God-given and intrinsic (because we were made in His brilliant, beautiful image.)
Help me live and love like Jesus.
Help me do the right thing. Even when it makes me – or someone else – uncomfortable.
“Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives…
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’
“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
~ Isaiah 58:1-8, The Message
Let’s be justice-seekers and bridge-builders and hope-givers. Right where we are. However we can.
Let’s be humble repenters… and revolutionaries for love. Lavish, lifesaving love.
Right in our own little corner of the world.
Maybe that won’t be the catalyst for sweeping change… but it will make a difference.
One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.
Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”
The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
The man laughed and said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then smiling at the man, he said …
“I made a difference to that one.”
2020 could be the year of our re-making.
Let’s get started.
P.S. Condemning oppression and police brutality doesn’t make me anti-law enforcement. I am praying fervently for our police officers, firefighters and National Guard tonight too. Calling for an end to violent, destructive rioting doesn’t mean I don’t support the protestors or understand (that I don’t understand) their outrage and grief. I’m praying for peace… and change. Join me?