Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Swimming, Protesting and Labor Pains

Feel like I'm swimming, except every time I turn my head a bit to come up for air, the air has been replaced with more water. Head down - two kids, one a newborn, loved ones in the hospital and a recent death in our family. Head up - racism; violence; confusion between peaceful protestors, rightly angry citizens, and those who just incite to take advantage of the moment; posts calling for cop killing on the one hand, posts calling for killing of blacks on the other.

O God, we are drowning. I can't imagine facing this drowning every day. But people do. People face this every day. I am only, for the first time, entering into their pain.

And yet. Small, beautiful moments. Friends. Gratitude, grace, generosity. Wise messages from trusted mentors, calling for concrete action instead of just more words.

I had a thought about the protesting today. Bear with me, because all analogies are poor and breakdown at some point. Labor, delivery, and birthing are, of course, on my mind. So my thoughts upon reading recaps of last night ran instantly to Romans 8:

"18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."

While we wait for the redemption of everybody, of every BODY, every beautiful body, we are experience labor pains. Both of Sarah's labors were long, arduous ordeals. Every five minutes, a pain, increasing in magnitude. Then, right before pushing, very painful, almost crippling contractions. Then the pushing itself, which always carries the risk of rips and tears. Lots of blood. Incredible pain.
There will be pain in this process, there will be actions that seem futile. And we still exist in bondage to the decay of sin, of violence, of racism, of hate, of fear. Though we have been set free, we live captured by that which so easily entangles and kills. But the process is not done without pain.

I am not saying that destruction in and of itself is good. I, personally, have great difficulty with violence. But the push that may be needed to move a little farther toward the new birth that God has promised, that God holds out, that God will in fact give us not of our own effort --- this push is painful and requires direct and meaningful action and active patience that sometimes looks like impatience and civil disobedience. And a side effect of this pushing may be ripping and tearing that will need to be healed.

Again, the analogy breaks down at some point. But I think we cannot move forward without some pain. But there are moments of beauty. There are stories of grace. And I am grateful for all of the many people in my life who are speaking with more clear-headedness than I can, with more prophetic vision and fire than I can. I reposted four wise suggestions from Toby D. Sanders for simple actions we can take in response to last night. I repost them again here.

"There are hundreds of things we can do about this decision and in service of our hopes. And all of us should do at least four of them.
1 support a local initiative with time and money that serves young black people!
2 vote in every election always in service of candidates who care about Mike browns family
3 Send a contribution to a family or ministry in ferguson or St. Louis today (instead of buying Black Friday crap)
St. John UCC St. Louis is my choice
4 Spend more time with bad ass vulnerable kids in your own family and community"

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