We don’t really talk about shootings anymore, we talk about another shooting, another bombing, another loss of what could have been. Our hearts fill and our stomachs empty at having another death before we’ve truly internalized the last one, before we’ve pulled our flags back to the tops of their staffs, before we’ve understood what happened. Our hearts are hardening, thicker than Pharaoh’s as we hear the tears on 24-hour loops until we cannot hear anymore, we cannot cry anymore, we cannot know any more. Our hearts have broken so many times that the pieces no longer stay together, even with the strongest glue, the hardiest tape.
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Psalm 13:2a)
I have no more answer for these, no more energy to refute those who say that black lives cannot matter unless we bury them under the suffocating banners proclaiming that all lives matter, that surely proclaiming love of everyone means that everyone is loved. I cannot continue speaking when my throat is dry, my voice rasping from saying that I am not anti-police for being anti-police-brutality, that I can mourn the five dead officers from Dallas even as my sorrow burns into anger for Philando Castile, for Alton Sterling. I do not understand how better to fight a system from which I benefit, in which I am uncertain of what to change but certain that change must happen.
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. (Psalm 13:3-4)
Yet to You, o God, I return if only because I have nowhere else I can think of going. Interpreter opened the sanctuary today for a prayer vigil and I took lunch to go because I wanted that safe space to grieve, to massage my hardened heart back into feeling. Few lights were on, allowing the sun streaming through the stained glass to provide illumination, allowing shadows to linger on the edges of the room. Monastic chant played quietly as he lit one candle for the shooter(s) of Dallas for that person, too, is God’s creation. Only a handful of us were able to come to this space and we lit candles for the officers, for the survivors still fighting, for the civilians. The lighter proved difficult and so we used one of the acolyte candlelighters, bathing bruised souls in the old, old traditions of the Church and the shifting drops of flame. We wept and prayed for all that is not changing, for the courage to continue believing and acting as though change is truly possible.
Oh that my head were waters,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
for the slain of the daughter of my people! (Jeremiah 9:1)
There will be no post next week, Reader, because I am going back into the world of camping to act as counselor once more with middle schoolers. Prayer is most welcome for me and how much counseling costs me emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but also for these kids. How do I spend a week assuring them of the love of God when we all wait with shortened breath for when it is our loved ones, ourselves who die? How do I tell them of God’s power and presence when our streets are not safe, our wars have crossed the seas to nestle in our beds and minds, our fears of those who are Different Than Us cause us to deny our own eyes and say there is no problem, there is no injustice, there is no reason to say that some lives seem to matter less than others?
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 13:5)
I preached last week on the places we expect God to give us great miracles, show-stopping spectacles of power in proof of the movement of the Spirit; I preached on how we cannot make God fancy, how ours is sometimes a God Who is not in the wind or the thunder but in the still, small voice.
Reader, sit with me a moment that we might breathe together, that we might listen for that quiet Presence, that we might remember hope when it feels there are only bullets and pain, that we might light a candle to guide our way.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside. (Great Is Thy Faithfulness, stanza 3)
Thus saith Jehovah: A voice hath been heard in Ramah, the wail of very bitter weeping,—Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are not. (Jeremiah 31:15, DARBY)