The news passed us by those four days. We did not look or listen. We listened to each other instead. This is one of the joys of writing retreats. (This one the New Smyrna Beach Writer’s Retreat.)
We read. We wrote. We sang. We prayed. A room of 12 strangers became a room of friends and confidantes, sharing our highest hopes, our ragged hearts, our quiet dreams to one another. But it could not last. Soon after we parted, the world lobbed its bombs: phone calls, frantic emails, the latest protests, the news from faraway and nearby.
Anger crashed in with it, like a fist pounding on the door. And there was hate, too. For entire groups of people, far and next door and out on the street; and you and I became Us and Them and No More. And Over There is Right Here and no one is at home in this strange land anymore . . .
If that isn’t enough, Anger calcifies like a rock and goes personal. A fist curled around a rock with your name on it is raised and hurled through your window. Sometimes you don’t even know why. Maybe you posted the wrong picture? Maybe you said a little too much truth. And though you have spent more than your whole life trying to love the rock-throwers, their stones pelt your house now more than ever. And the stones just keep getting bigger.
This is nothing new. King David knew about this. And Abel, and Jeremiah and Stephan and Paul and Jesus and every ancient prophet and man and woman who tried to live right. The stoners were always nearby, poised and armed.
But however ancient this battle, I am tired. I know you are too. In these daily storms, Love is too hard. Love disappoints. Love does not bridge every chasm. My own love wears out. It is not returned. It is misjudged and maligned. I want to give up on loving my neighbors. I don’t want to love the ones who think I am their enemy. I want to give up.
I have considered it. But surely hate is harder. How unrelentingly tight you must shut your eyes to the image of God in others! How much Truth you must suppress to give in to fear! How vigilant you must be to guard your heart against compassion! How tiring to believe every conspiracy! How deaf you must be to the voices of children! How hard to shield your soul against the stirring of the Spirit! How loud you must shout to drown the whisper of mercy! How ruthlessly you must pirate every grace and kindness of God to claim as your due! And all those people you’ve locked into boxes, how all-consuming to keep them in that prison!
I have not the strength to do this.
How do we keep on loving in the midst of such conflict then? Here, these women and men remind me. If you too are tired, rest for these moments and remember with me what Love can do. And where it comes from.
Maybe we can bend down and pick up that shattered glass.
Maybe we can open our doors
to one another
"If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, being in full accord and of one mind. " Phi. 2:1-2