Sunday, June 28, 2015

Storms and Stones

It was an unsettling week here in Chester County.

Warnings of storms, tornados, flooding. Over 200,000 households lost power when trees pulled down power lines, crushed cars, ripped into houses. Transportation was scuttled by suspension of mass transit, closed bridges and roads.  

The headlines were also unsettling: important Supreme Court decisions, fallout from the shootings in Charleston, outrage and celebration, grief and remembrance. And fear, with two mass shootings, seventeen casualties, just days apart in Philly neighborhoods I know.

We all have versions of what happened, why it happened, ideas about what should have been.

We all see the past, present, future, from our own narrow angle of vision.

“I don’t know anything about Pennsylvania politics,” someone wrote on my Facebook page recently, “but I still have an opinion.”

Of course. We all have opinions.

Even when we know nothing about it.

Even when no one wants to hear.

Some days I gag on opinions.

And some days I’m overwhelmed by what I don’t know, may never know.

That list is long:

What it’s like to see someone shooting on the street outside my door.

What it’s like to have sick children and no money for health care.

What it’s like to be black in a white-dominant culture.

What it’s like to be at odds with my own body, my own gender.

What it’s like to emerge from decades of sexual abuse, and wonder who might be safe to love.

What it’s like to be ridiculed and labeled for the way I walk, the way I talk.

What it’s like to live in a place where I don’t know the language or customs.

What it’s like to leave home, knowing it’s no longer safe, and head for a place I’ve never seen, where I won’t be welcome, where I might not survive.

What it’s like to live in a household with no fixed address, revolving daddies, no adult attention.

The list could go on, but it’s bringing me to tears so I think I’ll stop.

Life is hard, and the brokenness runs deep.

Creation groans under the weight of our millenniums of sin.

Our selfish choices and idolatrous systems shatter creation’s beauty and unleash harm in every direction.

Chemicals in our water yielding fish and frogs of disrupted gender. 

Marketing strategies that use sex as a commercial commodity.

Trade agreements built on increased consolidation of money and incentivized mistreatment of people and land.

Loss of community. 

Disconnected families. 

Simplistic, deceptive policies that yield deep harvests of anger.

We are far from where this good earth started, far from how things “ought” to be.

There are no easy fixes, and sometimes our most determined efforts miss the underlying issues.

Wrestling with invasive plants in the park where I spend time, I find myself wondering why I bother. Arms stinging from the mile-a-minute barbs, I survey the native plants so painstakingly planted last fall, crowded and choked by mugwort and invasive thistle. In the pond nearby, a member of our Weed Warrior team wades out to gather water chestnut before it spreads and smothers everything in its way. Has our work brought real improvement, or simply made it easier for the spread of thuggish weeds?

On my computer, hours later, I track the progress of the 2016 Pennsylvania state budget. I’ve become involved in advocating for a fair funding formula for public education. The more I learn, the more appalled I am at how inequitable our school funding system is, how much has been cut from schools with at-risk students, how little is given the children who need most. Our state is busy building prisons and courting dangerous polluters while failing to educate our children; too many wonderful young men and women I know have given up on teaching or moved to find teaching jobs in states far from home.

I read my twitter feed and grieve: at the dishonest bits of nonsense, the divisive infographics. Would honest information stem the tide of partisan spin? Is it even worth the effort?

Some people seem to have all the answers. They march with certainty through life, pronouncing right and wrong, dividing the world into camps of enemies and allies.

I watch with sadness. I’ve seen the storms that have bent those friends to one side or the other. I have seen the harm we do when we choose to judge what we’ve been told we cannot judge.

I am not without sin.

And I have no stones to throw.

As always, in times when my spirit grows weary, I turn to the one who said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Sitting in silence with my savior and friend, I am reminded that it’s not my job to judge.

When it comes to sheep or goats, Jesus said, we will all be surprised.

I resonate with a post by blogger Ed Cyzewski
Declarations about the collapse of civilization because of same sex marriage ring hollow when we consider that Americans toss 31.1% of our food while allowing millions to go hungry, [and] fail to ask whether our ridiculously high incarceration rates ruin thousands of lives that could have been set right through treatment programs . . .
 If God is going to condemn us over anything in America, it’s going to be our indifference and inaction when it comes to feeding people, giving out clean water, offering shelter, visiting the sick, and helping the prisoners, not a Supreme Court ruling.
Discernment and wisdom are always needed, yet it’s not my job to judge, or deliver opinions on everything and everyone.

It’s my job to listen well and speak little.

To pray.

To obey in the small particulars of the needs that confront me.

To offer food, help, comfort.

To nurture faith and hope.

To love my neighbor as myself.

With gentleness and humility.

Every neighbor.

Every day.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.