As I type this it is early August in 2020. The year has been unlike any before it in many ways. Currently there is a river in China that has been flooding for 2 months and there are several million people displaced. There is a serious concern that the largest dam in the world will fail and flood many more cities and destroy the lives of many people. This is the time in which we live.
While there has been great upheaval in the world regarding the Covid Virus, it is transforming the lives and dreams of many that expected the stasis of their lives to continue. It has revealed many points of previous stress that would maintain that load until the “last straw” showed up and the system changed. I won’t say it “failed” for that would imply that something broke. Nothing broke. Much has been revealed that was considered “normal” that was simply something we took for granted. CS Lewis said, “to the common Christian the strength of their faith is nothing more than a warm meal and a safe bed.” So, it has been shown to be true.
Our patterns and expectations were smashed by the wrecking ball of things out of our imagination or dreams. Weddings and other events cancelled or curtailed. Friends and loved ones that passed, all alone, in nursing homes that we could not visit. Jobs that have been forever altered in the way they will function going forward. Things have been disrupted and many feel displaced. You are not alone, even as you are distanced from the recent past.
There is a common desire in the Christian community that the believer would “desire to be in the will of God”. That is all fine until you are given the command to marry the harlot as Hosea was, or watch as the most vile enemy ravages your country and possessions as Habakkuk was to do. These too were people that wished to serve their God with passion and commitment, and yet were given tasks that they recoiled from. There are many stories like these, that tell of times and places that revealed much suffering and toil for “such a time as this”. Like the people of China that had no part in their river or the dam that released the waters, life comes hard and deep at times we least would wish.
Stories like these are part of what I call “Sermons never preached”, and I wonder sometimes if the realities of the hard times that befall each of us, would serve us better to have heard them and the story of confident hope that is it’s companion. To know that this is the plight of the human race, and that the safe sleep and warm meal is the uncommon part when viewed through the lens of history. That riots and mayhem are the norm of the population and that security is the oddity. That the unjust courts and the highwaymen which beset us are more common and that it still goes on, is the reality and not the surprise.
I listened to a podcast called “Forgotten, the missing women of Juarez.” The journalist that did the investigation of missing women found a story of both the young women that were dumped in the desert after they had been brutalized, but also found that the drug dealers were using the local police as their collection service to gather the girls. Also, that the judges and the prosecutors were also paid, both in Elpaso and in Juarez. Don’t forget the Border Agents that were on the take as well. This is all sterile and simply in the news, until it is your daughter and you cannot get justice. The FBI agent that was sent to help investigate found that there was only bad news and worse news. This is the norm for this area. You don’t know because you have a safe bed and a warm meal.
There is a parallel tale for the people of faith that goes like this: “If all you have are PG problems, all you need is a PG God.” That works until you have “R” rated problems. Then comes the growth in knowledge that you didn’t know you needed. It comes with the awareness of the friends that arrive with the bit of porridge and a blanket for your time of trial. It also comes with the stark awareness of those that don’t.
Cancer is but one of the things that are uncontrolled that enter and displace us. A child that is gunned down in Chicago was not planned by any that were in the area, witnesses or parent or gunman. And yet, the floods come to those that did nothing wrong. We lie to our self and we pretend with the cohort that lies to themselves and pretends. These are patterns that keep us connected. Then one day a friend has a trial of unexpected magnitude and duration and our PG answers are of no help. These are the times that we are in, and you did not choose them. They, somehow, have chosen us. We, to whom this time has come upon us, have been chosen.
When Moses brought out the People of Israel from Egypt, you might remember that they did not step into the Promised Land, but into the desert. They had shoes that did not wear out, but they wandered, seemingly aimlessly, for a long time. Should we be different? Well in ways, yes. We need to learn from history, such that we can prevent some of it from repeating. In other ways, only the touching of the electric fence will revel the shocking truth of why the cows don’t get close. So too, only the testing of a rope will reveal the strength of it. This is the same with our faith.
Much of the lament against the God of the Universe is found in the issue of Justice, and how it is applied. God is always something, early or late or for us or against us, but rarely on time and with the right amount. This is our selfish view and understood by nearly all. When your disruption comes, it is a strong faith indeed, that you are more Job and less his wife. There is a verse that is mostly misunderstood and misused that has the word “meek” in it. That the “meek would inherit the Earth” has taken on a social meaning and lost its true scriptural context. To be meek is to have a sword and yet keep it in its sheath. To be able to kill but to refrain. To be strong, but gentle. To stand when called upon to care for the orphan and the widow and to defend them, not to watch helplessly and be weak and servile. We have been taught incorrectly and are seen as contemptuous by society as a result. We are a PG people representing a PG God.
These are times of displacement and disruption, to be sure. Perhaps it is also a time to renew what your own strength has become. The church you used to go to is being forced to redefine its form and function. That is what used to be, and perhaps it was past time to have an actual revival of your own heart. To know that you are capable of the strength of meekness that has effect in the marketplace of ideas. To not use “word salads” of clichés and “in-house” phrases that the “R” rated world cares not about as they slay their own “R” rated problems. Perhaps then we will be taken seriously, and we can “give an account for the Hope that is within us” and we will be heard.
To come to the wounded with the cup of water and a word of hope, is to participate. To engage in the battle for the mind and the body. To become aware that evil exists and is closer than you would want to believe is to “relearn” truth. To then adjust your calibration for malevolence in the world you exist in. To call out injustice in the face of adversity, rather than simply hope the alligator will eat someone else and be satisfied and leave you alone. It is a fool’s hope. It is the mature understanding that evil exists, and the human trafficking and divorce and cancer all take place, and sometimes it is very close. Hopes that are crushed or delayed will wound the heart, but that is the common and not the exception. If you have been spared then be vigilant, not naïve. Help, but don’t ignore those with the ailment and the sorrows. The Dr. that let your child die may have done their best but may have been incompetent and failed. One is the same as the other in the result leading to sorrow, but one cries for justice more.
Yours is the day and the time to be strong. Perhaps simply stronger than yesterday, but to be strong. You are stronger than you realize, but only by being tested will you know. Your past has been shown to be simply history with the shift in the world that has been the last 6 months. Perhaps your world included a riot in a big city and perhaps it was simply a postponed event, but change has come. To simply be angry and petty about it effecting your world is a shallow level of understanding and you have shown to others your maturity threshold. It is not to dismiss your wound, but to reveal your future. It is now time to stand and to lean into the wound and pick up that which is the heaviest part that you can and move it as far as you can. Then rest a moment. Understand that you have done a new work, with strength that you now know is truly your own strength. You have grown. Perhaps it is simply making your bed for the first time in such a long time. Rejoice in the success.
Compare the you today with the you from yesterday, not the someone else today that you cannot be. Yours is your path not theirs. Today I will grow. Here is a metaphor that explains it: The speed of a train is regulated by the number of inferior ties under the rails. They use a machine that examines the ties with a sonar to reveal the quality. If you do the repairs to bad ties you can roll along at 25 mph with every other tie being sub-par. If you wish to go 35 mph then the bad ties are 1 in three. To go 50 or more mph, you can have one bad tie in a mile. My point is to understand that you can do maintenance, at a cost of time or money, and go from every other habit or decision being sub-par, to 1 in three. Start with one habit or choice and discipline it better and your speed will improve. You don’t have the resources to eliminate all of the bad habits in every mile that you travel. Start where you are but start.
The ability to volunteer at the hospital and hold crack babies is one step. Perhaps to invite someone, different than your norm, out to lunch or simply for coffee will reveal your closed world, but start. Do one tie that that needs replaced, the tie of ignorance of their world. You can do something of value, even from a wounded state. Go to an AA meeting and say nothing. Simply listen to where these people are starting each day, your life will open up a bit more than yesterday. This you can do even as you are healing from the wounds you have suffered. This you can do.