Lent, Honesty, Mental Health and Freedom

“Holy God, our lives are laid open before you: rescue us from the chaos of sin and through the death of your Son bring us healing and make us whole in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
—Common Worship, the Church of England

“Did you ever look inside yourself and see what you are not?”
—Flannery O’Connor

As this year’s Lenten season draws to a close, I have been struck by the way time and awareness and health are intersecting this year. A good friend of mine has a degree in psychology and counseling, and she was telling me that mental health is really about self-awareness – seeing who we truly are and being able to hold the good and the bad, the dark and the light, the best and the worst all together in one piece without lying to ourselves about who we really are. This holding together of the diverse parts of the self is what psychologists term ‘coherance’ – my friend is especially good at helping people talk through their own lives, look at their own stories, and come to places of deeper coherance where they can hold the whole story together, in one piece – finding better mental health.
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Call to Arms – Arm in Arm – After Ferguson

Christians – especially those of you who are white, asian-american, in my particular church family, my wider church family, or all those who are often in a position of protection and relative privilege when it comes to law enforcement in our country – I am writing this to you. I believe most of us are trying to sort through what is happening in MO and our nation with the best of intentions, hoping to clearly see the facts and get down to what is fair and right and true. And I get this work, and at some level acknowledge sifting through the details may be helpful. But because so much more is going on right now, and I believe that we need to be in this together at a deeper level as the church, and because I’ve been asked why this is such a big deal – I want to point us in another place.

As a pastor, mother, human being – I am sickened by what our country is now experiencing in the wake of the #FergusonDecision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson. And I am not right now interested in going through the ME reports, the angle of bullets, or the witness reports – I am not even interested in parsing out how it happens that an extraordinary pre-trial through the grand jury went down that resulted in not even indicting an officer that killed an unarmed teenager in the street.
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#Ferguson take one

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.
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