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Posts Tagged ‘pain’


Much has been written in social media and news outlets on the subject of George Floyd’s death while in custody of the Minneapolis Police.  What I want to discuss here are the broader related topics that permeate our culture in the United States of America and how we Christians living as the “fragrance of Christ” to the world might offer hope.

While I appreciate reading the varied perspectives currently peppered throughout social media, what seems to be missing is mutual respect for people regardless of their ethnicity or position on the topic being discussed.  I suppose that could be said for social media at large; but if reconciliation is truly the goal, every perspective represented must initially be treated as valid, even if it is incorrect, because it is based on that individual’s experience, learning, psychology, suffering, nurturing, etc.  Disagreement, even vehement opposition, is not legitimate grounds for mocking or silencing those perspectives.  Growth in someone’s perspective and understanding has never been accomplished by wielding inflammatory labels or a dismissive or insulting posture against them.  Engagement, active listening, respect, and dignity must be exhibited by all parties if growth is to be realized; and growth almost always occurs simultaneously to varying degrees in all parties who are willing.

While it is certainly true there remains inequity in the social systems of the USA, and that this inequity, combined with violent dispositions of human beings, frequently results in harm or death, I honestly don’t see how we emerge from this present agony closer to a healed, reconciled society while engagement and listening are minimized and provocative labels and terminology continue to be used.  Despite the persuasive and energetic arguments from those passionate about these topics that have recently produced pithy terms like “white privilege” to describe the inequity, this does injustice to the spiritual and psychological reality of human existence.  As a Christian, I believe from reading God’s word in the Bible that each human being, no matter how repulsive their actions, bears God’s image, no matter how obscured. Modern science and psychology have revealed that every single person is a complex being, not just those we agree with or like or find tolerable. Every person has intrinsic value, not only those we endorse or are in relationship with.  Every person is capable – indeed, desperately needy – of giving and receiving love, even and especially those it is so easy to categorize into binary terms or a meme because of a few words uttered in frustration, or foolish mistakes made or even acts of ignorance, violence or atrocity.

I must honestly ask myself: What is my interest here? What am I seeking?  If the answer is justice, my vision is very short-sighted and inadequate.  Pure justice is not enough, because pure justice can only be applied equally to all, and I must evaluate whether I truly want that for myself before answering too quickly.  Pure justice is mathematical; it does away with mercy.  I find it much too easy to cry for justice for others who offend and then plead for mercy and grace for myself.

I believe we must not put our hope for a healthier society merely in disruption, assuming we’ll somehow be at least a little better on the other side. This is fantasy. We also must resist joining the world’s urgent efforts to find some blamable symbol or person or group of people or political leader, all from a desire to discover a simple, rational explanation and solution.  This denies all we have learned of the complexity of human spirituality, psychology, emotion and reason.  There is certainly legitimate anger, confusion and scrutiny that arises when a person is flagrantly mistreated, even to death (especially by those in the role of protector) and the visual capture of that event is available to watch over and over.  Imagery is so powerful because it instantly shapes perception.  Visually observing one shocking, horrifying action gives birth to interpretation and then forms a knowledge, the imagery cemented in our minds as the truth of the event.  It’s not easy but it is simple, manageable.  Unfortunately, I have to admit, I’ve seen many things in my life and formed many opinions and passed many judgements on actions I wasn’t present for, words I didn’t hear and, worst of all, people I don’t know. And I’ve been wrong more than I’ve been right. Each of us is susceptible to my error, especially when we are immersed in the kind of outrage erupting right now.  To deny that susceptibility is to choose arrogance and illusion.

Our grieving process as a society has been re-ignited, and that process is an essential prerequisite for true healing and reconciliation, but it does not constitute those.  Rage, additional violence, hatred, vengeance – though all are understandable, none of these bring healing but rather guarantee more suffering, agony, loss and division, pushing us all further from what we claim is our goal. Without dialogue filled with the humility to accept that we may not actually know enough about another human being to categorize their value and true nature, I fear we will circle in the grief, oddly savoring the pain, and curdling it until it is hardened and our society’s mindset is trapped, growth stunted once more until the next horrible act of violence to be visually captured goes viral.  This is an opportunity to breathe love and grace into pain and sadness.  We must keep the eyes of our hearts on the prize we seek:  reconciliation and healing.  The restoration of all human beings to each other and God, in the name of Jesus Christ and his love for the world.  That is where abundant hope waits to sooth our grief.

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I wonder if isn’t wealth or poverty, intelligence or stupidity, beauty or ugliness, freedom or captivity that causes people to listen to what any of us have to say but rather a spiritual sensitivity.  People choose whether to listen based on my posture toward my own identity.

What do I believe is true about me?  The song of my heart – notes of my need and lyrics of my belief about myself – is audible spiritually to every person who encounters me.  Many of us spend our days emanating abhorrence, or at least dissatisfaction (yes, even the wealthy), with our own reality, and that shapes our definition of our very selves and, consequently, feeds our spiritual, emotional, and even physical bearing.

Have you ever asked yourself how you feel about you?  Have you ever asked Jesus what he thinks of you?  Honestly, I suspect most of us fear looking very closely into our own hearts.  That avoidance eventually gives birth to performing someone else’s lines, crafting our communication and reactions to ensure no one else looks too closely either.  But despite apparent social dysfunction, people are not truly oblivious – we all have minds, hearts, souls.  Even those who appear indifferent to us still perceive our true belief at some level.  Our souls still connect, and they respond to our self-contentment or self-contempt, genuineness or manipulation.  It simply can not be hidden, and it quickly encourages either attentiveness or dismissal.

So if you are hurt because it seems others whom you care about are not responding, or are even downright ignoring you, resist the initial urge to blame, to attack, to resent.  Pause for a few moments to ask and listen to the song your own heart is playing, and consider whether it is truly your original composition or a borrowed chorus emanating from a discontented, fearful heart.  Will you take the risk and honestly listen?  Will you trust Jesus with a question so dangerous you couldn’t bear him not answering?  I encourage you to take that step forward, to truly gamble the pieces of pleasure and survival you’ve been able to scrape together and protect over the years and invite his answer.  There’s no denying it – the idea is terrifying.  But please, give him that most intimate access to you. Honesty within will transform your music into a unique masterpiece that will touch others effortlessly and draw their hearts to yours.  That is where love waits.

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