Sometimes I don’t know what to say – how to convey the depth, the rage, the grief, the silence, the questions, the solidarity-while-I-know-I-am-still-different-ness. Sometimes I feel like I have to tone it down, or translate, or wait, or lift up other voices, or process thoughtfully, or confess, or something – before I can speak or comment or exhort. If I participate in the conversations I want to challenge, to build up, to advocate, to come alongside the grief, the pain, the anger, the misunderstanding. Between different experiences, different shades of skin, and different assumptions there is delicate ground to dance on; when to encourage, when to challenge, when to listen, when to speak up.
Then I check in with those I know and love, and I lament. There I am heard, and I hear, and then I remember – we need each other. We are all learning. There is no quick easy fix, no explanations that clear up all the pain. There is the struggle, the journey – there is community, and connection – there is growth and reconciling – there is confession, grief – and there is hope.
The reality is that this long darkness of racism, violence, and dehumanizing the other – the fear, ignorance, greed, divided communities and world views – these sins did not arrive as a result of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, a week ago; these sins did not visit our country or our churches overnight. This struggle, the pain, these divisions – they have been festering and infecting wounds for a long, long, long time.
My six year old asked why I was crying last week, and I said it was kind of like what happened to Martin Luther King Jr., another man was killed and he shouldn’t have been, and now his mom and his whole neighborhood are really sad and they miss him. But some other people don’t seem to get it, they aren’t sorry that he died. She looked at me and said, “Maybe those other people don’t know God yet mom. Do you think that would help?”
Does knowing God help – in the middle of tear gas and riot gear, streaming facebook comments and a mother’s son whose blood is still on the road? Does knowing God help – in the middle ignorant comments, hatred, anger, unawareness, and unwillingness – even from those who confess Christ?
Church, I pray that even though we’re all on the journey in our own imperfect way, that because we know God and we’re part of the Body of Christ, that being disciples does make a difference. That we respond, we pay attention, we engage, we listen, we speak up, we advocate, we confess, we work hard to learn, and we stay in the struggle. The solutions will not come overnight. But out of darkness comes light if we have the kingdom of God in view. Out of despair and death redemption can emerge – sometimes it takes a lifetime.
The church proclaims the good news over all forms of death, over all systems, powers and principalities that rob any one of us of abundant life. Any one of us. Church, we have the best answer out there to respond to death, to division, to fear and pain and ugly selfish hate. Let’s share that answer, that good news, not in a shallow or simplistic way, but as an embodied, diverse, broken community that together whispers laments as well as shouts hallelujah, that asks questions as well proclaims the One Answer, that marches and prays and advocates and worships, that holds each other and yells with each other, that listens and speaks up for the other. If we intentionally see each other as necessary and connected and bound up to this pain and the hope as one, knowing God does make all the difference. We need each other church. Every one of us. Only together will we find the words, the way to walk forward, the voice to speak up, the life that can grow out of the ashes of death and violence.