Death Penalties and Showing Up

Today half of the Boston Marathon Bombers was sentenced. He was sentenced to death. I read that and I felt sad. I’m not sure how putting him death will heal the deep wound that was opened on that morning, not sure how it will put back limbs or bring back lives. I do know that now a mother somewhere has lost two sons to their misguided and terrible plot. Two.

I have two, and the thought of losing even one makes me want to die. I don’t want to argue about it, I don’t want to have  a social media war. But I would like to know how killing this kid saves the world, how it furthers the type of world I want to live in, how it helps anyone to heal or to move forward.

I’ve thought a lot about it after a rather heated conversation with Casey, and like I said before, I’ve been there and watched that rage as a parent is confronted with even the possibility that someone has harmed or misused his child. And I can’t live that way.

My heart has changed, and if you’ve read my work or know me, then you know that. But even back then, steeped in the tall trees and crystal clear waters of the bay, even then I couldn’t want for someone to die to avenge my own people.

Someone told me today that she can’t see God a lot of the time anymore, that this world seems cruel and it seems random and unblessed. She wonders, I think, where God has gone, this God that she’s known her whole life.

In all honesty I didn’t know how to respond, so I called my unofficial and certainly not appropriate spiritual director and he gave me some starting points. But what he said stuck with me because it was the primary tenent of how I will go forward after confirmation; it was that I will show up.

That’s it.

Sort of a let down?

It’s not easy. The world needs people to show up, even you, in your not ready place, you need to show up. I’ll tell you a secret, I’m not ready, not even 80 percent of the time. I am not ready to sing, I have not had breakfast, I get stage fright like BAD. I am not ready for the sacred duty of parenting a teenage girl or being a wife. I am not ready for all of the things that the world will throw at my family, for my parents to age, for my brother and sister in law to move away, for my little sisters to drive. I am not.

But I will keep showing up.

Because when I show up I am living out the life that I have promised to live.When I don’t know what to say or what to do, but I show up, I am the love of God. God is there, I believe that He is. I believe that He hears our cries and our pleading, I believe that He hears us when we beg for another chance, when we make impossible bargains, when we just give up and sob. I believe that He does and that He cares.

And I also believe that the world is random and cruel. That is a fact.

But what happens when random and cruel strike is that we rise up. We. Rise. Up. And we do not let the random and the cruel win.

We enter into situations that are random and cruel and we are there. A shoulder, a hand, flowers or a meal, a basket with light sandwiches for a friend who is grieving. We sing in funeral choirs, lay out finger sandwiches and make lemonade. We send cards, we visit the hospital even though we hate hospitals. We sit with people when they are so prostrate with grief that they can barely register that we are there. We sing our loved ones off, we sit on their bedside and we sing them hymns and hold their hands as they let the bonds of this world go. We are a bright light in a dark space, a candle in the gloom, a rolling tide of goodness that someday will forever drive the darkness of this world back.

I sat recently with someone who is my other half, someone that I love with every fiber of my being after a procedure that was terrible to witness and more terrible to endure. And then this someone was ill and blood pressure was dropping and it was all very scary.

And I was surprised to hear the song that was coming from a place deep inside me, a song I sang so quietly, so carefully.

Salve Regina….which goes (I will helpfully translate it into English for you): Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. 

I sang and I hoped not to be heard by anyone in that place. I sang the entire service of compline through, fudging my way through the collects and prayers. And I thought that it mattered and I still believe that it did, in that sterile place to sing an ancient song, to beg a mother to Help. Me.

This is how God lives in this place, this bright and spinning orb floating randomly in space. This how God shows us that He lives in this place, by His people, US, showing up.

Last night was the service for Ascension Day. And one second Jesus was there talking to his people and then he was gone. And they still didn’t know what they were supposed to do, they still didn’t get the point, the message. The message was that Jesus could not go out and change the entire world until the end of time, the message was that we can, that we have to.

Momastery raised more than $250,000 in a day, and the average gift was $17. We can do small things with very great intent and kindness.

And we can do hard things too.

God is here, and the world, though broken, is so beautiful.

I’ve moved my office back down to the dungeon (where I’m pretty sure the girl from The Grudge watches me from the crawl space) and one perk of this is being close to the washing machine. Another perk is that I can open the window over my desk and it smells of chocolate cake because of the cocoa bean shell mulch that we used. Right now a cool breeze is caressing my heated cheeks and the heavenly smell of cake tempting me.

Friends, God is here, present, if you will only let Him be. It is back breaking and thankless work, it is heartache and it is fighting through the exhaustion and doing it anyway, showing up anyway. It, quite literally, is war.

The lake is still like glass tonight and there is a fog coming in. There is music drifting across its still expanse from the yacht club and new neighbors moving in next door. I have a cat snugged up against my lower back waiting for his dinner and a whole weekend in front of me.

Yes, I am sad.

Yes, the world is so hard. So random and cruel.

But it will stay that way for as long as we throw up our hands and quit.

Show up.

Stop waiting for God to intervene, to work a miracle, and realize that the miracle is YOU. Little old you with your roots coming in and your pajamas and your dirty dishes and depressing bank account. You are the miracle the world is waiting for.

I love you. Still. All the time. I’ll keep showing up.

I promise.

Fair are the meadows, fairer the woodlands, robed in the blooming garb of spring. Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer who makes the woeful heart to sing. 

Into your hands, O merciful savior, we commend your servant Dzhokhar. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a lamb of thy own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. 


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