Tired: The Cries of a Weary People

Tired.jpegI can see it in your eyes
The fear which clouds every thought

I can hear it in your words
The anxiety laced in everything you say

Fear of life itself
And all of those who walk about it
Anxious over the notion that someone somewhere just might
Take you out.

It’s scary, I know.
I feel that way too.
Every time a cop car pulls up behind me, I feel my heart sink further into my chest.
When I walk by strangers on the street, I wonder where there is malicious thought behind that half-baked smile
Or if someone aims to destroy at a park
in the mall
at church
in a school

And the government,
It’s a whole different kind of beast
Claiming to be for the people
It destroys the people 
Through lies and deception
Greed and destruction
Each of us – Black, white, Muslim and Jew – tremble in fear and trepidation with every passing moment.

And It’s only been 7 days!

It’s not supposed to be this way
Living in a constant tension between fight or flight
War exists but we were not made to live in a constant state of it
Resiliency is for the birds
We are dying
We are killing ourselves
Fear and hatred both incapacitates and alienates us
Aren’t you tired?

Aren’t you tired of that gnawing, aching feeling in the bottom of your chest
Aren’t you tired of living in between, with one foot in the grave and the other trying to walk around and feign sanity in the midst of destruction
Aren’t you tired of waking to fight to breathe, to exist in polluted air

Or of walking amongst corpses.

We are wounded people. Each of us deeply scarred.
Will we ever find a way to walk back towards each other?
Can we undo what has been already done?
Can we repair the foundation and rebuild a society that is strong, beautiful, loving, and true?
Or is this our final resting place?

The Importance of Worship in Times of Despair

Worship8This last year has left me weary. The constant news of violence against my people has been both overwhelming and discouraging, the latter because I honestly don’t know when relief will come. Our nation has built it’s wealth and prominence in the world by victimizing black and brown people – something that will not be easily overcome, though I remain hopeful as smaller scale victories are won through protest and policy change everyday! I know that our present suffering will not endure forever, mostly because empires, no matter how powerful last forever. And I also know that the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when He redeems those who have been oppressed, is coming! But when that all will be, I just don’t know.

As aforementioned, I remain hopeful. Hopeful that change will come. But it is not the kind of false optimism that believes everything will work itself out in the end – that we as a people will eventually progress to a more peaceful, harmonious state of being. I have no time for such nonsense! No, my hope is anchored in what I know Christ will do as a result of what He already did on the cross. His blood, shed for the sins of all of humanity – past, present, and future – reconciles us back to God, each other, as well as the earth and land around us. And reconciliation is inseparable from justice! God will bring about justice for those who have been chained and shackled by governments and systems of this world that exploit people for power and profit. And despite how much leaders in our nation clothe themselves in American Christianity, there will come a time when those who have been on the delivering end of injustice will be brought to account.

For me, hope goes hand in hand with despair. I despair and agonize over the current situation as I hope for a redeemed, victorious future. As Dr. Cornel West puts it in his book Hope on a Tightrope, “Those of us who truly hope, make despair a constant companion whom we outwrestle everyday owing to our commitment to justice, love, and hope. It is impossible to look honestly at our catastrophic conditions and not have some despair – it is a healthy sign of how deeply we care.”

Hope and despair! You can probably now understand why I’ve been so weary. Two seemingly conflicting dispositions that can either propel you forward or force you to turn inward and as an ambivert, I straddle both pretty well. Reach out or shut down. Engage or withdraw. Fight or retreat. Worship or not.

Ironically, its the worship piece that I have struggled with the most and which I have had energy for the least. And it is not because of disbelief or even discouragement, because remember I know that Jesus will transform this! It is because after expending myself in so many ways throughout the day to stand and fight for justice, at the end of the day I just want to tap out.

However, this is really where our quest for reconciliation and redemption must start! When we begin with worship, God Himself strengthens our hearts and minds when we have grown weary with despair. Additionally, magnifying God above and higher than structural racism and capitalism gives us the perspective and strategy that we need to prophetically counter injustice. When we see God clothed in all of His glory, empires start to look a little smaller.

So once again, I make a commitment to God, to myself, and to those around me to begin with worship. Worship because I have to if I want to ensure that despair doesn’t turn into despondency – hope deferred makes the heart go weak.’ Worship because I want God to take His place and restore everything that has been lost through conquest and war. Worship because the race for justice that we are running is a long distance marathon, not a sprint – I need endurance for the long haul!

The Magnificat: On Hope and Waiting

hopeWe all have those favorite Bible passages that we turn to over and over again. Scriptures that we have underlined and earmarked; promises that we have circled time and time again so much that the paper is wearing thin in those spots. The Magnificat, found in Luke 1, has never been one of those passages for me. Nope, never. There is nary a scratch on the whole page. That is until now.

I recently read an Oped-Column by Charles M Blow in the New York Times that instantly turned my mood sour. His piece “For Some Folks, Life is a Hill,” was so honest and true that I became frustrated, sad, and despondent in a matter of moments. Here is a snipet of what he said:

For some folks, life is a hill. You can either climb or stay at the bottom.

It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it is so. Some folks are born halfway up the hill and others on the top. The rest of us are not. Life doles out favors in differing measures, often as a result of historical injustice and systematic bias. That’s a hurtful fact, one that must be changed. We should all work toward that change.

It’s not that his words were exceeding profound or novel. But against the backdrop of everything that has been happening to black people and other communities of color in 2013 alone, his column solidified the sad reality that this country still has a long way to go in achieving racial equity, full inclusion, and reconciliation. And that reality is troublesome because in the absence of racial equity, people of color struggle with unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, food insecurity, and even face untimely death.

But we’ve been fighting for the dream of full inclusion for a while now. Hundreds of years in fact. How much longer do we have to wait before even a component of the dream is realized?

As I reflected on this question and stewed in my sorrow, I remembered the Magnificat. The same passage of Scripture that I had more or less ignored for years quickly became my comfort as I thought not just about Mary’s rejoicing over the news of carrying the Savior of the world in her womb, but about what His advent meant within the larger context of human history:

He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever (Luke 1.54, NASB).

Two thousand years before Mary, God made a promise to Abraham telling him that he would make him the father of many nations through his son Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob, who was the father of the Jewish nation, through whom the tribe of Judah ruled and Jesus is a direct descendant of that. He is the fulfillment of the original promise made to Abraham when God told him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Hallelujah! (Genesis 12 and 15)

But get this, even before this promise made to Abraham, God promised Adam and Eve that he would send a seed to crush Satan, defeat sin, and conquer death and the grave (Genesis 3.15). Again this promise is fulfilled in Jesus at least four thousand years after the initial covenant was made.

Four thousand stinking years!

In the course of that four thousand years, life happened. Sin was leashed upon the world, manifested in human hearts, and caused people to do some strange and awful things to one another. Murder. Oppression. Slavery. Genocide. Rape. Conquest. Colonization. Empire.

No wonder Mary is happy. No wonder she breaks out in song, rejoicing over the fact that the baby in her womb IS the Savior of the world. God did not forget the promise that He made to her, the Jewish people, the world – He was ushering the kingdom of heaven through Jesus which would jumpstart the process of the healing of the nations.

Two thousand years after Mary, we lie between the start of that process and its completion. This is the already/ not yet tension of the Gospel. Already we are being saved, already we are being redeemed, already we are being made new as professed in 2 Corinthians 5.17 – 20. But, and it’s a big BUT, the effects of sin still plague the earth. As a result, there is still murder, oppression, slavery, genocide, rape, conquest, colonization, and empire, all of which has been committed against communities of color in America alone since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And if governments and powers could do this to its own people in this county, you have to wonder what it has done to the rest of the world.

For many of us, life certainly is a hill. We’ve been trying hard to climb it, level it, blow it up and still we are stuck at the bottom. But in the same way that God in His mercy remembered Israel, he will remember us! We have been grafted into the original covenant through Jesus Christ. By believing in Him, what once strictly belonged to Israel has been extended to all of us who will profess His name (Romans 8).

Although I do not know how long (no one knows the day or the hour right?), we still have a long way to go to fully receive what Jesus has promised. In the meantime, we have to adhere to the words offered by Blow in his article and work toward dismantling the historical injustice and systemic bias. In doing so, I believe we will begin to see components of God’s kingdom manifested on earth right now. For the sake of the oppressed, and the marginalized, and the hungry, and the homeless, and the forgotten among us, let’s do it now.