Friday, July 22, 2016

Four years later

Facebook pops up with these "memories" of things I posted "on this day," however many years ago. Today, it popped up a memory from this blog; really, one of the last public blog posts I made since entering "official" ministry.

Given the things that have been happening in the world the last couple of months, it seemed apropos that this memory should appear. As a matter of fact, I was just talking to my now 9-year-old daughter about 9/11, and about the current news around Black Lives Matter, police killing and being killed, terrorism, and ISIS.

I'm not as eloquent as many of my colleagues. I seem to have acquired writer's block around the time I graduated from seminary. There might be a connection. But I have been wrestling with the heartache and pain that I see around me, and that I feel deep in my heart.

I have so many things that I want to say, and so many things I am trying to hold at the same time. As a community minister, I have the privilege and the pain of witnessing spiritual distress in just about everyone. Brown, black, blue, white; gay, straight, bi, transgender, queer. The people who respond, and the people who get responded to.

I work with people who have been the target of racism, classism, hate, discrimination - for their poverty, their illness, their addiction, their gender, their sexuality, their skin color. I work with people who serve as police who are afraid to go to work every day, and who listen to people decide who will be the first to throw something at them. I work with good people and not-so-good-people.

But this divisiveness, this hate, this tearing down and building walls, this killing, this hurting. It has to stop. Through all of the ways I witness distress and stand with folks in their hour of need, the thread that runs through it all is "what kind of world am I leaving to my children?" I worry about them having a lemonade stand on our street and getting mugged. I worry about them walking to the park and getting beaten up by a gang. I worry about them being targeted for their faith, or their sexual orientation, or about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I can't live without a mother," my little girl says to me, scared at the news of bombings and shootings and violence, no matter how I try to protect her from it. How can I tell her that so many babies live without their mother? How can I promise her that she won't have to? How can I offer her words of comfort?

I can't.

I tell her that we have to be good people. That we have to do the best we can. That we can't and won't live in fear, because then evil wins. I tell her that no matter what happens, we have to be able to say that we were a force for good. For understanding. For love. That love has to triumph over hate. Over evil. It's small fucking comfort to a 9 year old girl. But it's what I have. For her. For everyone.

I don't know how to hold the pain of the ones that are black and blue and white and brown and gay and straight and bi and trans. He and she and they. I don't know how to hold it in my hands and make sense of systems of hate and 'isms.' " I don't know how to heal it. I can't. All I can do is build bridges where I can. I can stop hate when I can. I can support anger when it's righteous and justice-seeking. I can love my kids and my neighbors and do more than tolerate others who are different than me.

I don't know how to do this work without it changing me, tearing me up, giving me stories to tell that hurt those that hear them. It's transformative work. It transforms me in ways I like and don't like. It tears the pretty veneer off of just about everything and makes lots of things seem petty and escapist. It makes me scream and it makes me silent, because sometimes there are no fucking words.

These systems and systemic problems are so complicated that I can't see all of the issues or hold them or understand them. But I'm not going to give up. I have to keep the faith, and be a witness, because all children need a mom.

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