From Mourning to Hope

Was 2018 heavy? I feel like I spent about twelve months of exhausting trudging, eyes to the ground, trying to find my next step.

My son, who served in the 82nd Airborne often talks about “rucking” — a long march, 15-20 miles or more, with a heavy pack of gear strapped on your back.

Image result for ruck march
Ruck March

The soldier carries necessities — provisions, weapons, extra socks, and the like — on his back and moves forward. The more he does this, the better he gets at it — the longer he can go, the more he can carry. Soldiers practice rucking, of course, so that when they have to go on a mission, they have the strength and endurance they need to endure.

Now I have used the metaphor of the solider many times in this blog to describe a lifestyle that I used to live that was characterized by butt-kicking and name-taking. This year was not that kind of soldiering. No, that old lifestyle was built on the premise that I had the strength within myself to accomplish whatever task was put in front of me. It was built on bravado; I believed that by the force of my will I could solve all the problems and complete all the tasks. I’ve learned a lot since then.

Much of my writing over the last four and a half years has been a chronicle of the retraining I’ve undergone to stop living the soldiering lifestyle — I’ve changed physical things like my diet, exercise, healthcare providers, and job, and emotional things like the ways that I speak to and care for myself. Yet, while I have been very intentional about stepping away from soldiering, I am still prone to strapping on that backpack when the going gets tough.

And it does get tough, doesn’t it?

This past year was the toughest yet. And I might’ve gone back to soldiering, if it would’ve done any good, but it wouldn’t have, because 2018 brought the kind of heavy that dispelled any vestiges of that former belief — that bravado — that inner mantra I used to live by that said I could handle anything. The heaviness of 2018 was more than I could carry. I could no longer ruck. I had to admit my powerlessness. I sat down, and I cried. Over and over this year, I cried, and I cried, and I cried.

I grieved most of 2018. I grieved for the losses of many who are dear to me — who themselves lost so much this year — and I grieved for myself — for all the losses I have failed to grieve over the years. Likely the biggest grief of all was realizing that — that I hadn’t felt all the feelings when I should have been feeling them; instead, I had been rucking. I’d been carrying a load of hurt shoved down deep in a bag, when I should have been spreading all the griefs out on a blanket, examining each one and recognizing the weight of each loss.

So, I spent the last several months doing just that. I have examined the contents of that bag. I have spread it all out. I have sorted it with the support of my therapist. I have processed it by writing page after page. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have invited others to pray with me. I have spent hours and days and whole weeks talking with my husband — rehearsing forgiveness and grace. And, guys, I think I’m ready to take a break from grief.

For years I’ve worn a small heart charm on a gold chain. The heart has a K on the front and my birthdate on the back. It was a baptism gift from my godparents, and I wear it to remember whose I am. Almost 15 years ago, I added another charm — a butterfly that my mother gave me when I earned my master’s degree. I wear it to remember that I have been transformed. I’m not big on jewelry. In fact, my skin rejects all but the finest of gold, so when my chain broke about a year and half ago, I didn’t get it fixed because we were already in the throes of trauma, and I didn’t have the wherewithal or the resources to deal with it.

But on Christmas morning, as we sat in our living room with three of our four children, and we started to believe that the gray fog of grief was lifting, my husband gave me my repaired gold chain. I’ve put it back on, because I need a physical sign that the season of mourning is over. I need a daily reminder that I am a child of God who has been transformed. The times of refreshing have come.

Certainly 2019 will not be free of trouble. We may be devastated again today or next week or next month, but for now, I am going to acknowledge that we were carried through 2018 not by our own might, but by the Hands of God who saw every tear, heard every prayer, and who, right now, is turning our mourning into hope.

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 30:11-12

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I am trusting…

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

First John 4:16

That’s all.  That’s all we can rely on.  It is the only thing that will not fail.  We will let ourselves down.  Our finances will falter.  Our friends will betray us.  Our leaders will disappoint us.  The world will hurl all kinds of venom full in our faces, but the love of God will not fail.

 I am clinging to that truth today.  I’m grasping it in a sweaty fist that I’m waving in the air as I say,  jaw-clenched, “I am trusting you, Lord.”

Trusting you as I stare in disbelief at my television screen showing live tape of atrocities I thought had died out decades ago.

Trusting you as yet another individual has amassed an arsenal and opened fire on unsuspecting people he didn’t even know.

Trusting you in the face of politicians hurling insults and accusations at one another.

Trusting you as the citizenry follows their lead.

Trusting you as brother fights against sister.

Trusting you as illness grabs at our throats.

Trusting you as uncertainty threatens to dash our hopes.

Why? Why am I trusting You? Because You have proven yourself faithful to thousands of generations. You have calmed storms, fed the hungry, healed the sick, dethroned rulers, measured out justice against oppressors, and still found time to speak in a still small voice to “the least of these”.

The Creator of everything, the Redeemer of the world, the Sustainer of all life, knows my name. He has numbered the hairs on my head.  He knows my coming and my going.  He knows my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow.

He will never leave me nor forsake me. So I breathe in the truth, open my fist, and unclench my jaw.

Lord, replace my anger with purpose.  Replace my despair with diligence.  Let me bear witness to your unfailing love in a world that very afraid.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Hope

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been tempted to feel a little pessimistic lately.  The presidential campaigns, acts of violence, international events, and their portrayal by the media could make a girl pretty cynical.  Add to that the postings on Facebook and Twitter, and I might just walk around grumbling about the ‘terrible state of the world’.   I might even be heard muttering things like, “this country is a mess,” “it’s only going to get worse,” etc.

I start, actually, to sound like someone who has no hope.

But I do!  I do have hope.  I have hope for our country in the midst of the current political climate.  I have hope amidst senseless acts of violence.  I have hope despite the changing economy of Great Britain and its effect on US markets.  I have hope regardless of how afraid and desperate the media would like to encourage me to be.

Why?  Why do I have hope?  Because our God — the God who created the world out of nothing, the God who designed the intricacies of the human body and mind, the God who provided His own Son to suffer the consequences of our sin, the God who has provided for me every day of my life, the God who has blessed me and my family beyond what we ever could ask or imagine — is still on the throne.

And he is not aloof.  No. He is actively involved in the lives of His creation.  He has seen every political speech, and He can discern every lie from every truth.  He knows already who will be elected, and He has the power to make any result work together for good. He has watched every mass shooting.  He stood amidst the chaos as lives were cut short.  He understood the motives of the assailants and the fear of the victims. He alone can comfort those who mourn and intervene to prevent future devastation. He knows how much money each of us has in our savings account and in our pocket.  He knows our needs even before we ask.  Not one of us is forgotten by God.

We have hope.  God’s people have faced worse — 400 years of slavery in Egypt, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, persecution, division, war, famine — and God has been able to step into these circumstances and work miracles.

He is still able.  He acts in spite of man’s foolishness, selfishness, and sinfulness.  He acts because He loves us, created us, and calls us to His purposes.

I believe that one of those purposes is to be flag-bearers of hope in a world that is tempted to lose hope. I have been falling down on the job lately.  I have not been communicating the hope that I have inside of me.  So, today I turn.

Hope with me, will you?

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Creativity

Just under two years ago, as I said goodbye to teaching in St. Louis so that I could move to Michigan with my husband, I imagined that I would take four to six months to rest and recover and then I would find a job and get back to some kind of ‘normal’ life.  My limited view couldn’t see what God had planned for me.  I couldn’t imagine how He would allow me to experiment with different types and levels of employment so that I could see for myself what would be fulfilling, draining, energizing, depleting… I couldn’t envision a life where I would have so much freedom to learn and grow.  I couldn’t see how He could provide for us financially, so He had to show me.

In the past two years I have worked for Reuters as an election agent, tutored students in English, writing, reading, study skills and test preparation, participated in intensive reading and writing instruction, edited everything from a young adult novel to a Master’s thesis on cancer-treating drugs, scored standardized math assessments, and taught college-level writing and literature courses.

And though that sounds like a lot, I’ve had the luxury of making new friends, participating in a regular Bible study, joining a new church family, working out consistently at a local gym, reading dozens of books, visiting family across the state, exploring Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with my husband, and providing a refuge for my daughters as they navigated some difficult life situations.  Not only that, I’ve had time to experiment with medical strategies — discarding some, embracing others — to find ways to feel better both physically and emotionally.

Much of that journey has been chronicled in this blog. I think I started writing imagining that I would arrive at a destination — that I would someday get to “The Next Chapter.” However, I think the theme of this chapter is learning to live in the process, to trust that God knows what is coming next and He is preparing me for it. I’m learning to not look too far ahead, but to enjoy each moment.

This morning, I was supposed to be doing some online scoring, but ETS contacted me and said that due to reduced volume, I was not needed and would still receive half of my pay for the morning.  So, I stayed in bed reading a great book a little longer than usual.  I got up, straightened the kitchen, made my tea, and picked up my old faithful devotional, Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore.  After having set it down for a while to study Hosea and Breathe, I turned to the first page to start my third journey through this book.

Was I surprised that the message applied directly to my life? Not really.  I’m starting to expect it.  I no longer get stunned when I see a message like this: “What God is doing in your life right now may not make sense to you, but it’s not because He’s nonsensical.  It’s because He’s creative…In His wisdom God knew [His creation] was good because He knew what was coming next.  He knows what’s coming next for you…Give God room to be completely creative.”

Two years ago, I had no idea what was coming next.  It was pure obedience (plus exhaustion and a touch of desperation) to move here with no plan. Granted, He had made it quite obvious that we should take this leap of faith by providing a position that was custom-crafted for my husband in Michigan, which we both call home, but still, for a chronic planner and do-er, it was a totally new experience.

What God was doing in our lives did not make sense to me, but it wasn’t because He was nonsensical.  It was because He had a creative response to my self-destructive soldiering ways. He had information that was beyond my scope.  He knew what was coming next. And in my exhaustion, I was willing to allow him the room to be completely creative.

Guess how creative He is — He’s giving me the opportunity to teach high school students from across the country and around the world this summer at the University of Michigan. I’ll get to speak into their writing process and, hopefully, into their lives.  He’s allowing me to lead three sections of writing at Concordia in the fall — a three-minute walk from my kitchen to my classroom. And – gasp – He’s orchestrated an opportunity for my husband and me to chaperone a group of students to Israel for two weeks in January!

Could I have imagined all of that two short years ago? Not in a million years.  I was picturing myself shelving books at the public library. Not that that would’ve been a bad gig; perhaps that’ll be the next Next Chapter.  For now, I’m pretty content in this chapter and grateful to its Author.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you a hope and a future.”

 

 

 

Music

A video is circulating on Facebook that shows a young man sitting quietly at  baseball game when Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” begins to blast from the speakers.  The music pulls him out of his seat and he is transformed into an exuberant happiness machine — moving among those seated around him, touching them and hugging them.  The people are not troubled by this, as you might expect.  The music has transformed them, too — they are touched by the young man’s happiness and willing to be part of his experience.

Music transforms us. 

I’ve always loved riding in the car with my daughter.  Something about moving along the highway, windows down and radio blaring, frees her from her stresses.  She sings loudly and passionately with everything from  Queen to Billy Joel to Young the Giant to David Crowder to The Black Keys.  For a while, she kept a cowboy hat in the back seat so that she could pop it on her head when she drove to signify this freedom from life’s troubles and pure abandonment to the music.

Music frees us. 

This morning at Bible study, one of our ladies came in weeping as she announced that a close friend has just a short time to live.  Many shared their condolences.  Later, as we closed our time together, we had a corporate prayer as we always do.  Women took turns lifting their praises, thanks, concerns, and requests.  The time was winding to a close when the woman whose friend is dying said, “forgive me, a song just came to me.”  She began to sing and several around the table hummed along, joining her in worship.

Music consoles us. 

Also at Bible study this morning was a woman whose husband left his life with Alzheimer’s last week to start his life in Heaven.  She was beaming when she entered the room.  She had labored with him for five hard years and was so relieved that his battle was over. She pulled a folded paper from her purse that she had found this morning in her husband’s Bible — it noted the date and time when he had accepted Jesus as his Savior.  She said, “Isn’t that wonderful?!”  She asked us if we would join her tomorrow at her husband’s funeral.  “Won’t it be fun?!”  she exclaimed.

I knew what she was talking about because she attended the funeral for my dear friend just a few weeks ago.  I happened to catch her out of the corner of my eye as the praise music played.  I knew that at the time her husband was at home with hospice workers, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that from looking at her.  As she sang the songs, her hands were raised and her smile was wide.  I know she is looking forward to experiencing that again tomorrow.

Music transports us. 

Yesterday morning I attended a chapel service commemorating Veteran’s Day.  A few dozen veterans, some from World War II, some from Korea and Vietnam, some from the Gulf Wars, and some just starting their service, were seated near the front of the huge sanctuary.  The choir sang “O, Beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…”  As they sang verse after verse, I began to hear the voices of those seated around me –men and women in uniforms, jackets, and vests, denoting their service — began to sing along.  At first it was quiet, but it built, unashamedly — that song of unity.

Music unites us. 

It’s a gift, isn’t it.  We don’t need it, surely.  It’s an unnecessary blessing that breathes life into us, refreshes us, and inspires us.  Thank you, God, for music.

Psalm 96:1

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Changing

I got home at 2:30 am today. That’s a real time.  I left the Washtenaw County Courthouse around 2:15 and drove through a mostly abandoned Ann Arbor, past the medical center, and the VA.  I was less than a mile from home, near Gallup Park, when I thought, “Oh, I better watch for deer—” and as I said it,  one appeared, as my son would say, “at eleven o’clock.”  I stopped in the middle of the road, met eyes with the critter, and nodded for him to go ahead and cross.  I swear he nodded back and then sprang across the road in front of me.

After over seven hours of chatting with the two agents from the Associated Press, entering tallies into my iPhone app, and playing countless rounds of CandyCrush (yes, I re-installed that dumb game on my phone!), I was not quite ready for sleep.  So I plunked down on the couch and read.

A friend recently loaned me a book called, Still Alice, which chronicles the life of a woman about my age who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  It is told from her point of view from before the diagnosis until she no longer recognizes the people in her family or even herself. I read and I cried.  I’m not sure what touched me more, her sense of loss, or the ways that her family learned to love and care for her as she became something that she had never been.

Around 4:30am, with only about thirteen pages left, I decided I was too drained to finish the book, so I crawled into bed and knocked out.  I woke up of my own volition around 11.  Chester may have been willing me awake, because when I stirred, he leapt to his feet and pleaded with me to take him outside.  Apparently I understand deer and golden retrievers.

I took him out, went back to the couch, tried some more to conquer Candy Crush and pushed away thoughts of eating, making tea, blogging, and working out. I wasn’t sure I would do much at all today.  My body ached and I was tired. I didn’t feel hungry and I wasn’t even really interested in tea.  Maybe I would just lose the day to couch-dom.

I hadn’t been in my position long when the front door opened.  My husband entered and found me looking, I’m sure, pathetic in my jammies with a glazed look on my face.  “I thought you might be up.  Can I make you some lunch?”

“I guess I should eat something.”

“Can I make you some tea, too?”

“I’ll come join you in the kitchen.  Maybe if I washed the dishes my hands would feel better.”

He sautéed onions and spinach in butter and stirred in scrambled eggs, just how I like them.  I washed dishes and told him about my night downtown.  We ate and laughed together and by the time he left I was ready to go back to my book, to think about driving to the gym, and to sit for a few minutes at my computer to blog.

It’s not lost on me — the connection I am making between my life and the book.  I am a someone I have never been.  Sometimes I don’t recognize myself.  Yet, I have a husband, and children, who are learning new ways to love and support me.

Oh, and I think I am learning to talk to animals.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Sign me up!

Whew!  I had a close call yesterday.  I asked the administrator, during my interview when she hoped the position would start, she said, “Monday,” and I almost said, “Sign me up!”

It’s a good thing I have all of you as witnesses to my commitment of January 5.  Because when I said, “My initial plan was to not return to work until January…”  she said, “That’s fine!  We will still need you in January.”  It’s also a good thing that I have mentioned the need to only work part-time, because when she said, “It’s Monday through Thursday 8:00-3:30,” I was able to sputter, “that’s a little bit more than I was planning on.” Her response? “How does 8:30 – 1:30 sound?”

And I haven’t even told you the exciting stuff.

The school was started by a group of individuals who did a study that revealed a college graduation rate of 12% among the residents of the south Ypsilanti area where the school is located.  This is in stark contrast to the 84% college graduation rate on the other side of Michigan Avenue where Eastern Michigan University is located.  It’s first goal was credit recovery, but quickly shifted to high school completion.  The school uses an online platform combined with project-based learning.  The halls are decorated with project plans and completed projects — among them a three-dimensional replica of Fort Michilimackinac and a comparison/contrast of Twelfth Night and 10 Things I Hate About You. 

The head administrator and the principal explained the fluidity of the curriculum to meet the needs of students who might be the first in their families to graduate.  The administrator said, “What the students need more than anything is someone who believes they can do it.”  When I asked, “So, what might my role be, would I need to come in on day one with a plan?”  She answered, “They will let you know what they need.  They want this. They will put you to work.”

So let me get this straight —  the students, many of whom are over 17, come to school voluntarily, follow their own plan for high school completion, enlist the help of school personnel to make that happen, and display virtually no behaviors unbecoming of students?  Because they know that the teachers believe they can do it and are working to make it happen?

Sign me up.

Now, perhaps I am looking through rose-colored glasses.  Perhaps I am not seeing the school’s weaknesses.  Maybe it is not all that they say it is.  There is only one way to find out.

Sign me up.

I mean, after all, it’s not a contract.  I would only be a paraprofessional.  If I don’t like it I can leave.  Right?

Let me be clear, here.  I have not actually been offered a position, but I think it’s mine if I want it. Listen to this:  I might be getting paid to encourage students to finish their high school diplomas — students who really want to finish their high school diplomas.  I am also being paid, by the way, to read and respond to a master’s thesis on cheating in educational settings.  And today, remember, I am going to be paid to report election results.

Remember last week when I was worried about finances and I climbed up onto my Dad’s lap to talk to Him about it?  See what He’s doing?

Yeah, I see it, too.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to His power that is at work within us,

to Him be the glory.

Ephesians 3:20

He will wipe every tear from their eyes

Is it possible to have the spiritual gift of tears? I have often thought I could get a gig as a professional wailer for funerals.  When I was a child, I could be counted on to cry at any given occasion, usually because I wasn’t getting my way, but also because I was sad, or tired, or hungry, or one of my brothers had poked me one too many times.

As I grew older, something changed, and I don’t always produce tears on behalf of myself.  I might get a little choked up at a goodbye, but rarely do I really sob because of something that is happening to me or about me.

But let me see someone I love hurting, and look out!  I don’t even really need to know what they are hurting about.  If someone dear to me has a tear in her eye, my eyes will well up to match it.  If someone I know has lost someone dear, I will weep with them.  But what’s really weird is the fact that I can see a total stranger sobbing and I, too, will feel overcome with emotion.  Does everyone do this?  Or is it just me?

Yesterday, I had a good reason to cry.  I attended the memorial service for a dear friend who died almost one month ago.  I hadn’t seen her in three years, so it’s not like I will miss our daily interactions.  She holds a dear place in my heart because of her impact on my life, but I am actually thanking God for taking her after eight long years of battle with breast cancer.  My body sighs relief to match her relief.  But, despite the fact that I am happy for her, I sobbed yesterday.

And, not really for myself.  I think I can be honest about that.  The service was at the church she had belonged to for twenty years — where she and her husband had raised their daughters. Many friends had come to share in the celebration of a woman who certainly beamed joy into every room she entered.  All the music was up-beat praise music, which is what my friend and her family loved.  It all proclaimed the hope she had in Jesus and the certainty of her salvation.  None of this made me cry.

What made me cry was watching the back of her tall, broad-shouldered husband of forty years, standing in the front row without her, singing the words of the songs, nodding his head in agreement. What made me leak tears was seeing her daughter embrace her granddaughter, sharing tears of loss and sadness.  What made me sob was watching her other daughter stand erect and sure, dabbing at her eyes, then walking to the front of the church to share beautifully her mother’s legacy which she challenged friends and family to carry on.

My day to day life will not be changed because my friend has changed addresses.  The lives of her family will never be the same.  For them, I wept.  For them, I pray for comfort.

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,

neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more…

I know the plans I have for you

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve been sitting at my computer now for about an hour.  I keep getting distracted from my blog.  I made a hotel reservation for an upcoming trip.  I sent a few emails.  I printed a few documents. And I even started a job application.

Don’t worry, I quickly abandoned it when I realized how long it was!  I don’t think I’m ready yet!  That’s ok, it’s only October 13.  I have time, and God has a plan.  Right?  I am counting on it!

That doesn’t mean I am going to stay in my pajamas until January 1 expecting a phone call that will offer me a ridiculous amount of money to do exactly what I love.  Of course not!  Although my jammies are rather comfy, if I do say so myself.  I will apply for some jobs.  I may even complete an application today, but I’ve gotta work up to it.

God’s plan for me right now is to be doing exactly what I am doing.  I am resting.  I am processing.  I am feeling.  I am evaluating.  I am healing.  And it all takes time.

It’s pretty amazing to me that the whole time I was running around in St. Louis, working full-time plus, parenting, maintaining a large home, and barely keeping my head above the water line, God was planning for me to take this break.  He knew it was coming. I had no idea.  I just kept pushing.  Wash another load of laundry, grade another stack of papers, buy another cart of groceries, fill another prescription, cook another meal, make another appointment.  It was non-stop.  Until God said, “Stop.”

I never expected a break.  I longed for a shift, a different position, a lighter load, an emptier nest, but never in a million years, did I imagine six months of not working, just resting, just recovering, just contemplating.

But He knew.  He knew I needed time to do nothing.  Hours to read, to play Words with Friends, to sleep, to watch Law and Order (there, I finally outed myself), to try new recipes, to drink coffee and tea, to connect with old friends, to make new friends. I had no idea I needed this.  But He did.

It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.  The one who created the universe– the trees, the river, the deer, coffee, and every single person — noticed me running frantically about like the squirrels in the trees outside my window.  He saw me fussing and fretting and trying to order my world.  And, instead of just being entertained my my futile attempts, he stepped into my life and provided what I needed.

So, why would I worry that he doesn’t have the next phase planned, too? I have no idea.  For forty-eight years he has provided just what I needed at exactly the right time — friends, mentors, experiences, finances, food, shelter, clothing, spouse, children, employment, and even rest.  Why would He stop now?

Luke 12:6-7

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents?  Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.

…Do not fear, you are more valuable than many sparrows.

One remedy

Ahhhhh….I woke up from a restful sleep this morning and said to my husband, “It’s amazing what we take for granted, until we don’t have it for a couple of days.”  I was, of course, referring to a good night’s sleep.  And, I must say, it was lovely.

But then I did my usual routine of checking Facebook, email, and messages to find that once again there was an officer-involved shooting in St. Louis last night, and once again, it was racially charged.

I take living in a peaceful community for granted.  I am very insulated at the moment.  When I was in college, way back in the 80s, we called it ‘the Concordia bubble’.  It’s nice and shiny in here, guys.  I have mentioned, ad nauseum, the river, the deer, blah, blah, blah.  We live in virtual peace with God and man inside this little bubble.  When we drive down to little Gallup Park, we walk alongside people of a variety of backgrounds all smiling and nodding at one another.  We pick up our messes and leave the park how we found it.  It’s eerily Eutopian.  When I go out for lunches, all the ladies play nice, smile, laugh, share… I don’t really experience conflict.

Yeah, it’s weird.

I mean just three months ago, I was living in the heart of pre-Ferguson St. Louis.  I won’t say I experienced conflict at all.  Actually I lived in my racially mixed neighborhood in relative peace.  We exchanged pleasantries with neighbors, moved among people from countless backgrounds, and had very few bumps of any kind.  But the tension was there to be sure. It runs like an electrical current under all of St. Louis.  It would be naive to say that I was unaware.  Centuries of history have bred mistrust and anger among the people in St. Louis and the electricity is tangible.

It was just a matter of time before a spark ignited the explosive emotions that people can barely keep in check. And I have to believe that that is the reason that Ferguson is not over and forgotten.  Everyone there knows that the divide between blacks and whites exists. And now that the current of suspicion and hatred has been exposed, the citizens want to make sure it stays in the open.  I mean, seriously, grown adults are making public statements at Cardinals games — hurtful statements in a nation-wide arena where the whole country will see.  “Notice us, America, we are hurting over here and we don’t know what to do about it!”  (That was their statements after being passed through the Rathje decoder.)

And how is anyone, inside or outside of St. Louis, supposed to see the actual truth when years of emotion are clouding the issues?  And the emotions are valid!  I am not able, from this distance, inside this skin, to tell you what is happening, who is right, who is wrong, but I am able to tell you that these people are hurting.  And they have been for a very long time.

Humans were not created to be at odds with one another.  We are all children of God.  We are all sitting in the palm of His hand.  He alone knows the absolute truth of who did what, what were their motives, who should be held accountable.  I would love to say that the courts will sort it all out.  But the courts are made up of humans and the courts in St. Louis are made up of hurting St. Louis humans.  It’s gonna be difficult for anyone to get a fair and impartial trial at a time like this.

And really, is one trial going to solve the hurts of centuries of conflict? Would one hundred trials solve the hurts?  a thousand?

Nope.

After all, no one, really, is innocent.  We all have sinned.  We all fall short of the glory of God. But, He has promised…”If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

It’s the only remedy that exists.  And in order for it to work, everyone will have to put down their weapons and trust in something larger than themselves.  Then conversations can start and healing can begin.

be still, there is a healer

His love is deeper than the sea

His mercy is unfailing

His arms are a fortress for the weak.

Let faith arise…

–Chris Tomlin