I always think, when more lives are lost, how we should have a vigil. And then I remember that we just had one.
We had all these small candles, and we opened our church and the afternoon light streamed through the stained glass saints onto folks we by and large didn’t know. We prayed, straight folks and gay folks for change and for mercy.
And I think that if we are going to have a vigil every time, we may as well just set up the candles and leave them, in a permanent display of loss and lament and despair. We may as well just make this vigil a new holy order, a new religious discipline – people who never leave their knees crying out to a God who doesn’t seem to hear. An order draped in black, wraiths with permanent salty grooves in their cheeks, clawed hands clutching prayer books, voices spent long ago.
(Ten children. Take ten children that you know and bury them now in your heart. Feel the sudden stab, feel the tearing as a person who belongs to you is torn away, feel the tears that burn your eyes and the lump in your throat and know that this is not even a tenth of what is happening, not anywhere near how real and present the despair is).
And I write about this and not #blacklivesmatter not because I feel like black lives don’t matter, not because I am on the terrible #alllives train. I write about this because I am not qualified to write about black lives. Because I know mom fear and car accident fear and poverty fear, I know account collections and putting food on the table fear – but I don’t know black lives fear. I will not write about it, I would not do it justice. I would only muddle you even more with my own ignorance and my own idea of what I think that fear is. I must remind myself almost daily what #blacklivesmatters means, I must recall to myself again the whiteness that I have. I must throw up my hands and realize that I alone cannot fix or save or mend. I am trying to be silent and humble in the face of #blacklivesmatter, to sit with my head bowed and my hands out in peace and surrender, I have nothing more to contribute right now, because I am watching my hands under my eyelids, and they are slowly filling with tears as I begin to sort of see, to sort of understand.
I wish I could step into and out of that new holy order, I wish I could put on my own black robes and float up the aisle in the darkened church. I wish I could kneel and clutch a prayer book and be left alone for fifteen minutes to cry and to plead and to ask and to wonder – to feel that I am talking to the organ console and nothing more.
And it dawns on me, like a cloud uncovering the sun, that I’ve told you before and thought I believed that no one is coming. That I don’t know if God hears us, I don’t know if he has to sit on his hands to keep from helping or if he changes the channel, like us, because he (we) can’t bear the carnage and the hate and the utter sorrow of this place. If sometimes he can’t even see anymore the valleys and the way the streams twinkle through them, the individual and divine coloring of the cows in the fields and the fish in the sea, if all he sees is like one never ending ASPCA commercial, all of this need and no idea of where to even begin.
And I don’t know where to begin, overwhelmed as I am, daunted by the sorrow. Maybe we are made for different things. Maybe there are people who were made to live in prayer, to plead and to intercede. Maybe there are people who were made to raise nations and armies, to rebel and to overthrow. Maybe I am both.
I know that today I am called to a seemingly simple task:
Today – I will walk humbly with my God. I will walk humbly in the face of prejudice and pain that I cannot comprehend but that I am part of. In the face of all the answers I do not have.
Today – I will act justly. I will be a voice for the people who have voices that are not heard over the great melee of greed and need.
Today – I will love tenderly, my children, myself, a world that seems to be falling through space and on fire all at the same time.
Today my loves, is all we need get through. And whether you are kneeling in a stall, feeling the ache in your knees and the burn in your throat as you offer your intercessions, your litany of desolation, or if you are angry and organizing, marching in the streets and waving a flag, shouting from a platform and handing out flyers to rally us together – know that I am with you, that I love you still.
I am going to stand up off this rock on the side of the road where I’ve been crying, licking my wounds. I am going to gather my cloak around myself and look for you on the road, catch you up and take your hand. I am going to keep walking, humbly with you, because you are holy too, divinely created and spirit filled. I am going to work for justice beside you and love tenderly with you, though our hearts may break.
Today is all there is, and no one is coming, there is only us, this rag tag group of travelers kicking up dust on this road. Only us and a whole world in need. We will magic up amazing acts of mercy, we will triage, feed, console and fight.We will do Jesus Work, Mercy Work, we will realize the reign of God and make it so.
You can pray if you need to.
And we are enough. We just have to be.