The day of two shootings in our country was the day my kids were followed by killer whales. It was 10 pm, light as day, near the end of the day’s work on the fishing nets. A pod of 8 orcas appeared, a family, with two babies right beside their skiff. They watched their massive black and white bodies as they dipped and rose around their boat, enthralled. Then one of the orcas surfaced, spun and gulped down an unsuspecting sea otter in one crunch, right before them. A rainbow arched overhead. (No, there were no unicorns.)
I saw the rainbow. It chased me out of the house where I was unloading 25 boxes from the last shopping trip. Where I was listening to NPR news about the shooting at the baseball practice, when the announcer broke in with news of a new shooting in San Francisco.
That morning I watched a bald eagle snatch a salmon from the sea. Sometimes we see them scoop ducks from their innocent feeding, lifting them to their nests, plucking their feathers before they eat. I saw two orcas round the corner of our island below me, scanning for sea lions, otters, seals, any warm body to feed their own.
Two summers ago we boated past a sea lion rookery. One rock still flowed with blood, where an orca had nabbed a sea lion and sunk into the depths.
We are enmeshed in killing, all of us.
I don’t know what orcas or eagles think when they are killing. Or eagles when they impale a warm squirming bird and feed it to their young.
I don’t know what a man thinks as he points a gun and squeezes the trigger to kill another human being. This is when we are most like animals: brute, unfeeling, predatory.
Is our country unraveling? Fellow Countrymen have become enemies. Anger rules. Words are arrows, and when insults are not enough for rage, guns take their place. What kind of wisdom or solution can be spoken into this spiral? I have only cold comfort this morning, but comfort nonetheless. I am immersed in the Psalms these days, each day writing out a Psalm in my own best hand, word for word. Letting its phrases, poetry, complaints, longings, laments and praises run through my body, through my fingers to the page. Here is what I know so far. The court and the nation of Israel three thousand years ago is little different than ours today. The King, the man on the throne was often under siege. Violence erupted constantly. His enemies lay in wait for him. The righteous were attacked and embattled.
So has it always been.
It’s a story as old as humankind. (Yes, not much comfort---yet.) How can we not, then, run out of sorrow and righteous indignation? Sometimes I’m just fresh out. But somehow King David never seemed to run out. He did not deny the harsh realities around him. He did not shrug his shoulders in resignation. He did not grow numb and cloister himself in a sanctuary. Nor did he mount his horse to kill his enemies. Instead, He did the two most powerful things possible: He took up his pen and his harp. And he fell on his face before God. Again and again.
He continued to long for righteousness. He prayed unceasingly against evil and beseeched toward good. He cried tears of frustration and despair. He kept calling upon God’s righteousness. He continually praised and mourned and sang to God in every moment of need.
This is the narrow way. It’s the harder way. It’s easier to accommodate, to adjust, to adapt, to accept creeping incivilities and outright evil as normal. It’s easier to give up. To rely on ourselves. To fall silent.
This is all I'm saying: Don’t despair of despair. Don’t grow weary of longing. Don’t give up mourning evil. These are signs of life. If we did not know the light, we would not see the dark.
But we can’t carry this darkness or it will kill us. Carry it to our Lord, our King who alone can bear it.
And If you’re out of words, use the Psalmist's. God gave him those words, because he knew
we would need them too.
Like this, we will not give up on our country.
Like this, we will not forget all that is Good and Right and True.