On Tuesday night we packed up the truck and headed north. When I say we packed up the truck I mean seriously packed up the truck. We had four different suitcases, two busy bags, four pillows, one fan and about fifty stuffed animals. One would think, looking into the back of the truck, that we were embarking on the Oregon Trail (for a 1.5 day journey).
We dropped off the dog and hit the road, stopped at my dad’s to change out vehicles and off we went. When we stopped, after a long detour, in Big Rapids, it was discovered that Avery had left her shoes. There is nothing better than buying flip flops at a Walmart in Big Rapids at 9pm on Tuesday, is there?
We finally rolled in just as the sun was setting over the bay.
And immediately we went back, I’d felt it, as the miles passed, as the scenery changed and the traffic grew sparse. Felt us going back in time to those last years up north, felt again how hard those years were. And the trip was basically terrible. It’s not my fault, and it isn’t his, it just IS. So there you go, before you ask me, how was your trip? It was terrible.
There were shining moments though, and we talked about these last night. My discernment team is a tad worried I think, worried that I am in some way seeking penance, trying to atone by opening myself to the world and serving the world and all it’s inhabitants. And that is sort of right, and mostly not, as we discussed. I feel like we are all called to get better, all called, if you will, to be more holy. It’s like this long journey down a tunnel and it keeps getting lighter and lighter as you go along. And sometimes you’re so tired, so sick of the dripping water and the musty air, so tired of being in the dark that you think maybe you should just turn around and go back the other way. But at the end of the tunnel is this bright light, and I am seeking that bright light. I don’t know if I’ll get there in this lifetime, but that is what I’m seeking.
So I’m enduring the uncomfortable, enduring the dark, singing a song, lighting another candle to drive back the dark.
We talked about how I can’t heal anyone. We talked about how that feels, and honestly, it is ok with me. Because I feel like being the person who walks along side someone in their worst moment, rather than being that person who’s like POOF! You’re healed… I feel like having walked the road means something, I feel like it teaches me more than the wizard notion of healing.
And here we are tonight, all home. I watched my cats do their strange breakfast dance this morning, shooed Chini away once he was obviously just being a pig. I made coffee and listened to the birds sing, watched the lake go from dark to limned silver and then pink. Greeted my sleepy girls and my dopey dog, made the coffee and went to work.
All the while not knowing that there had been this tremendous thing happening down south. I didn’t know that a man had come to a Bible study and left ruin in his wake. I didn’t know about the five year old girl who played dead and somehow survived.
I cannot imagine such courage, to be so still, to close my eyes, to hear the carnage all around me and to not move, to not cry out. I simply cannot imagine.
So I sat in the garage for a while in the sun, and I drank my coffee and I read all the accounts while the tears just leaked.
Because, man, we are so bad to each other. That human wickedness, sometimes it feels like it wins. And all I can do is sit in a camp chair in a wide shaft of sunlight and feel the breeze on my face and smell the coffee and cry. Sometimes that is all I am capable of, sitting in my pajamas and crying.
A friend told me recently that she doesn’t cry anymore, it’s as if every tear she was allotted had been spent. And I understand that, because I didn’t cry for a long time, not for anything. I was so afraid that if I let one single tear go it would never stop, I’d be adrift in an ocean of old sorrow. I’m still sort of afraid of that, but I let a few out every now and again. And she will too and we will sit in her barn or on her couch and we will water our drinks with years worth of tears. We really will, and I will really sit there. That’s a promise.
There were other moments, belly laughs with my colleagues in the big shiny office building while sitting in a chair that didn’t come from my kitchen. There was listening to an old man in Wyoming, his handsome drawl as he told me how his wife had hip surgery because she fell, how the sounds of the places he had to go, so far off the ranch, sounded like glittering jewels as he said them, dropping them from his mouth to my waiting hands. Laramie. Buford. My wife.
But now I’m little off kilter, a little sad. The week was weird and I can’t believe it’s Friday. I feel sad when I see the faces of those slain, but take offense at the phrase “white privilege.” Because I am working so hard and I can’t ahead, I am climbing a sand dune where the sand just keeps filling my shoes and I get bogged down. I am raising my children to serve and to love and to BE KIND. I have things that have happened to me and you have things that have happened to you.
I am not qualified to write about this, and I’ve said that, but I have things too. And I’m so sorry for your things, I am, I really, really am. But I feel like labels like white privilege don’t further anything useful, anything meaningful.
I guess I am just me, little old me. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t practice being racist and I certainly don’t raise my children that way. Saying that to be aware of racism and my privilege is the answer feels like a cop out, or maybe it just isn’t news to me. Because I am aware of it. I know there are still people out there who practice it, I know the history of slavery.
I know that in discerning a call to be a deacon I am discerning a call to stand on a platform pleading for social justice and peace, not to humbly apologize for something that I didn’t do.
I know the story of those nine people who died in their church and it chills me to the bone. And it makes me cry, and it makes me angry, but it doesn’t make me feel guilty and it doesn’t make me want to hide or to feel ashamed, because that is the exact opposite of what a deacon does. A deacon (me, you, all of us), grieves what has passed, and we work in our tiny corners to make it better, we repent, and we repent and we believe that we are forgiven, that our chains are gone. Reconciliation, justice, this is not everyone examining their privilege and how that somehow led to what happened in that Bible study. Because having online debates about white privilege, it isn’t an answer, and it won’t fix anything.
So I am me, and I will continue to work for justice. And I will stand in solidarity with all of the people who have held vigils, who have left flowers, who have cried when thinking of the image of a little girl playing dead while beloved members of her church family were shot to death.
There is this song, and it always reminds me of my brother, now that we are both working toward the same goal. It goes, I’m gonna commandeer the local airways and tell the neighbors what’s been going on. And they will shake their heads, and wag their bony fingers in all the wrong directions, and by daybreak we”ll be gone.
Because fighting a tide of bigotry and injustice is so much larger than labels. So much larger than white versus black, so much more than you saying you’re sorry.
And I will try. I will keep fighting my way down this dank tunnel, believing truly that there is light around the next bend.
I’m gonna get myself in fighting trim, seek out every angle of unfair advantage. I’m gonna bribe the officials, I’m gonna kill all the judges. It’s gonna take you people years to recover from all of the damage.