It felt like a scene out of the Twilight Zone, approaching the TSA checkpoint at the Grand Rapids airport. I literally walked right up to the desk, pulled out my license and boarding pass and leisurely removed my shoes for screening, not a single flier waiting in line behind me.
Flying and I, we’re frienemies. That’s why I dug up my years expired bottle of Alprazoam the night before. I’m not sure it’d even be safe to take anymore, but I appreciate the placebo affect of having it tucked into my purse in case we hit some Michigan potholes in the sky.
I felt especially anxious that particular morning. It wouldn’t be my first choice to die in a plane crash and leave my baby without a mama, especially now, when we’ve just kicked off a 3 year plan to Seize the Days.
Nobody takes a middle seat right now. I boarded, got comfy next to the window in row 5 and started to pray. “God, I’m either going to Dallas or Heaven today. Ultimately, you’re going to be the one to decide. Either way, we’re doing it together and I’m going to be fine.”
The next few hours, at 36,000 feet, my mind played pinball. Thoughts bouncing off each other faster than my hand-eye coordination.
Lots of questions, precious few answers.
What a year! And it’s not even half over.
On every level, there’s chaos, grief, loss and uncertainty.
In our country.
And in my own tiny world.
If I were one of those people who speculates about end times prophecy, I’d be making some wagers. But, I’m not. God’s the only one who knows how and when He’s going to turn the page on this chapter, bringing ultimate justice, absolute righteousness and perfect resolution to the mayhem of this cosmic story.
And, truth is, this year’s troubles aren’t necessarily worse than other year’s troubles.
Somewhere in the world there’s always War.
Hatred. Corruption. Tyranny.
It just doesn’t usually invade my personal space. Lucky me.
Starting with the infamous COVID-19—
I wonder how the brightest minds will analyze the impact of months of shut downs and sheltering in place through the lens of retrospect?
Is being required to wear a mask in a grocery store really a slippery slope to having our fundamental individual liberties undermined?
Is it necessary for Governors to enact cookie cutter orders for entire states like mine where hot and cold zones comingle?
And how about those brave business owners trying to avoid going bust after a lifetime of growing up their babies?
The astronomical unemployment rates represent individuals and families who hold mortgages and need groceries, how will they pay for them? And who’s going to foot the bill for all of the government assistance now that our pool of taxpaying income earners is significantly reduced? What about all the children and adults who have been stuck at home for months being physically, emotionally and sexually abused?
Who’s going to serve the mental health needs of those who’ve fallen into debilitating anxiety and depression due to fear over this virus?
And how do you reconcile the tragedy of a fatality count that mostly represents individuals who died alone with nobody to hold their hand? And what about the loved ones left behind devoid of the opportunity to participate in normal communal grief rituals?
And when the data’s all in, who knows whether or not this virus will actually end up being statistically significantly more dangerous than a bad flu season?
Ask anybody the source of our Pure Michigan pride. It’s the freshwater lakes surrounding our pleasant Penninsula. And so I wonder how can our Lake which has been our solace, turn into a threat as property owners build rock retaining walls and concrete barriers to battle erosion swallowing up their homes? River inlets and bayous burst at the seams too and right in the peak of the spring rains, dams break and empty out whole inland lakes into cities full of people just trying to shelter in place. Is there any act of human ingenuity or skill that can ultimately stop the forces of nature? I wonder, who will calm the waters and keep them where they’re meant to be?
Racial Injustice goes Viral.
And then, just like Murphy’s law, the tragic, senseless, repeated loss of life to black skinned people at the hands of police officers, ex-police officers and self-appointed neighborhood association vigilantes, like a horror movie, goes viral, resulting in nationwide grief and widespread revolt. And George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are just the tip of the iceberg.
I wonder what compels a trained law enforcement agent to administer brute force on a non-resistant, unarmed person? And over a potentially counterfeit $20 bill? And how could that officer miss the cues of severe physical distress when a grown man calls out for his mother?
And, I wonder who, being awoken in the middle of the night wouldn’t potentially shoot at a mob breaking and entering their residence without identifying themselves? Don’t we generally honor a person’s courage when they protect their home and people from intruders? And with the available technology, why wouldn’t police officers on mission carry body cameras for no-knock warrants? And are no-knock warrants worth the risk in drug raid searches? And where did the communication break down that the warrant officers weren’t aware that the criminal they were seeking had already been apprehended at another location?
And, I wonder how do neighborhood association home owners justify the right to stalk, ambush and shoot a person they assume committed non-violent criminal activity in their neighborhood? And who wouldn’t potentially have an adrenaline surge of self-protective energy under threat of violence while taking a leisurely jog on a residential street?
Our police force
And what must it be like for all of the justice loving civil servants of every race who are the whipping boys for the rage against the minority of sloppy, corrupt police officers?
What about the risks law enforcement agents take every day to protect our homes? Families? Communities?
Do we have any grasp of a cop’s quandary as he or she makes instantaneous life and death judgment calls in crisis?
And how is dismantling our local law enforcement agencies a reasonable solution to our racial injustice problems? Every vocation has some bad apples. Business men embezel. Doctors malpractice. Priests and pastors sexually abuse parishioners. We don’t write off their designated role in society because some of them misuse their position. So why the disparity with cops?
And, how do we make sense of widespread rioting? Looting? Vandalizing? Arson? If its goal is to repay white people for hurting black people, what about all those minority business owners who barely stayed afloat during months of COVID closures only to have their angry “brothers and sisters” put a nail in the coffin of their life’s investment?
And what about all of the lives of people of every skin tone that have been lost during the violent protests? Do they matter too?
Are we supposed to turn a blind eye to crimes committed during riots because they are retributive?
And what are we going to do about all of this cumulative trauma?
Given our country’s black history, is the personal and collective chaos really surprising?
While trauma sometimes sits quiet, almost dormant, inside a person for a long, long time, when triggered, the sympathetic nervous system goes into fight, flight or freeze, by design. “Fight” really gets our attention because people power up in order to feel a sense of control over their pain. Do we notice their distress without an extreme response? How can victims of trauma communicate the depth of their suffering in non-destructive ways?
I ask Jesus, how do you feel about this relational mess between the image-bearers you created all across the color palette?
And his answer: John 11:35.
The shortest verse in the Bible.
In the movie, Selma, Martin Luther King Jr. comforts a grandpa after his grandson was killed by a state trooper in a peaceful march for civil rights, saying, “There are no words. But I will tell you that God was the first to cry.”
And I wonder why it’s so hard for white people to just plain grieve the hurts, injustices and losses that black people experience?
Why do we feel compelled to Justify? Explain? And be defensive?
If Jesus cries, why don’t we?
Why are we so hesitant, resistant even, to enter the shared grief of black Amercians?
If every life is designed by the Creator and loved as long and high and wide and deep as Jesus loves me, then shouldn’t I be compelled as an image bearing sister to mourn every tragic loss of life, to call for justice for perpetrators of crimes, to advocate for fair consequences to be meted out through our justice system?
There’s a lot I don’t know, a whole bunch of questions…
But here’s what I’m sure about:
1) There isn’t any quick fix– no patch, no do-it yourself repair kit and no refurbishing solution- to the brokenness between whites and blacks. But as God’s kid, I am obliged to be soft-hearted and listen attentively to my black fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.
2) The most effective weapon in the war against racism is prayer. Jesus says to cast all our cares on Him for He cares for us. Posturing myself in the presence of Jesus with all my questions and concerns, inviting Him to lift the burdens off my small rounded shoulders onto into his strong Herculean arms, gives me the attunement to hear His voice and feel His heart. In His presence is where I find clarity about the next step.
3) I can and should hope for change, and work for it too, but my only actual guarantee about anything is that my hope for all to be made right in eternity is certain.
Back to my trip to Dallas. I went to visit someone I love. Soon, she will take her first breath of eternal life.
Every Wednesday night in room 301 for more than a decade, we were a bunch of Chatty Cathies. And we closed our favorite restaurant, who knows how many times, before moving our conversation out to one of our cars for the finish.
Not anymore. She’s quiet now. And tires easily when I talk.
For a few days, I could sit with her–offering my physical presence.
Really, isn’t that a universal longing in all of our hardest struggles, our most crushing griefs, and our greatest hardships?
I read The Psalms aloud because they so perfectly express both lament and confidence. Yes, we’re brokenhearted and yes, God is a very present help in time of trouble. Our gentle shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. And there are so many enemies….
We live between the Now and the Not Yet.
And right here, there’s a lot of visceral groaning, “How long, O Lord?”
Satan, our supreme enemy, he seeks to steal, kill and destroy.
And he’s doing a pretty, darn, good job of it!
And it’s been like this for a very long time. At least that’s how it feels to us.
But our Not Yet is a verified, 100% guaranteed promise from God. And He assures us that ultimate healing is coming.
Perfect peace will prevail.
And complete justice too.
And that is a Hope that does not disappoint.
So many questions…..
Ultimately, only One answer.
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.