A Groaning Need For Change

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A voice is heard in Ramah,    
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children     
and refusing to be comforted,     
because they are no more.
~Jeremiah 31:15

 

 

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We live in a time where the groaning need and dividedness of humankind is especially to be felt and recognized. Countless people are subjected to hatred, violence and oppression which go unchecked. The injustice and corruption which exist today are causing many voices to be raised to protest and cry out that something be done. Many men and women are being moved to sacrifice much in the struggle for justice, freedom, and peace. There is a movement afoot in our time, a movement which is growing, awakening.

Yet this terrific human need and burden of the times causes us to see how weak and powerless we are to change this. Then we must see that if we are to advocate change, we must start with ourselves. We must recognize that we as individuals are to blame for social injustice, oppression, and the downgrading of others, whether personal or on a broader plane. We must see that a revolution must take place against all that destroys life. This revolution must become a revolution different from any the world has ever seen. God must intervene and lead such a revolution with his Spirit and his justice and his truth.
~Dwight Blough from the introduction to When the Time was Fulfilled (1965)

 

 

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Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw on to itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means, chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom.
~N.T. Wright from The Crown and the Fire

 

 

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Inundated by more news of deaths of innocents,
unending violence and division and blood-letting,
we have groaning need for transformation:

We cling to the mystery of His magnetism
for our weaknesses and flaws.

He willingly pulls our evil onto Himself and out of us.
Hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness
disappear into the vortex of His love and beauty as
the grungiest corners of our hearts are vacuumed spotless.

We are let in on a secret,
His mystery revealed:

He is not sullied by absorbing the dirty messes
we’ve made of our lives
so that our hatred is nullified.

Instead, by His Spirit
we are forever changed
and will groan no more.

 

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We Will Weep and Know Why

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~to a young child~

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall”
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This morning we weep and know why.
It is not simply the sorrowful loss
of the perfection of spring and childhood
giving way to the dying of the fall,
the last gasp coloring of leaves and skies.It is the loss of innocence, of sense of reverence for life,
this blight man was born for,
this bleeding out for no reason.

What must drive one man’s selfish rage, loneliness and despair to compel him to deprive innocent others of their blood and life?

What unexplained evil overtakes one heart that he seeks to stop the beating hearts of others before his own is stopped?


When will there ever be safe havens again in society?
Not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not concerts, not any place people gather.

This is a day for lament, for tears, and for prayers to God that we cry out and bleed out the spiritual sickness that is infecting us all.
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The Future Flowering

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We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots, and executions. We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, suffering, and shame. In the same way all disrespect for life, all hard heartedness, all indifference, and all contempt is nothing else than killing. With just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a young person. Life is waiting everywhere, the future is flowering every­where, but we only see a small part of it and step on much of it with our feet.
~Hermann Hesse, from Vivos Voco, 1919

Hundreds of thousands of people have the choice of living (and likely dying) oppressed in the midst of conflict, too often with the risk of being enslaved and raped, or to try escape to an uncertain fate on the other side of a border, a fence, a turbulent sea.

So many of us are here, living in countries that sustain and grow us, because we descend from people who escaped war, or hunger, or extreme poverty. Many of us worship a God who was a refugee Himself from a king who sought Him dead.

Can we extend a hand of hope to millions who also want to put roots down in safety so their lives, and their childrens’ lives, may flower?   Even if it means less soil for us all, are we not the privileged gardeners to prepare the ground so all people may flourish?

 

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Mingled with Grief

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

What happened last night in Aurora, Colorado is not fair.  There could not have been a darker place than a theater where a masked gunman gassed, then shot and killed escaping movie goers at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.  I’m not a fan of the genre of troubled superheroes but my children and their friends and many of my patients are.  They like to attend first movie showings at midnight in big batches, celebrating an anticipated release together.  The young people who were killed and injured are just like them.  It is so unfair, just like so many violent tragedies instigated by a desperate person wanting to prove a point through random killings, then make the news in a “suicide by police” gesture.

The media has just released information that the young shooter is a neuroscience graduate student withdrawing from his program–someone whose motives are still unknown but whose struggles were undoubtedly apparent to his family and mentors.  He must be a bright and talented individual to have made it into a PhD program so this somehow compounds the tragedy.   One of the stark realities of our time is that before a shooter is identified by the media, there are dozens, maybe hundreds,  of people who wonder if and fear their family member (or patient) could be the one.   There are so many struggling with dark impulses and those around them often have a clue and have tried to help.   I’ve seen students in my practice with such thoughts and it is a heavy burden for them and for me to sort out how best to reduce the risk of them acting out their impulses.  There have been times when hospitalization isn’t possible, when meds aren’t effective or not taken, when counselors are ignored, when families are non-existent support.   That is when I can only pray on my own for light in my patient’s darkness, that he will not become the next headline, the next suicide, the next mass shooting.

There must be unfathomable grief today on the part of the families of the killed and injured, and on the part of the family of the shooter, and the recent University administrators and others who may have tried to help him.   There is no response possible except to love these hurting people as deeply as possible, surrounding them with hope and prayer.   They will never be the same.  The shooter has made certain of that.

The shooter didn’t extinguish the light nor has he extinguished himself, no matter how hard he hoped to.  We need to make sure he failed in his goal.  The media needs to draw a curtain around this tragedy and limit exposure.   To dwell on it only encourages this and the next mass murderer in their quest for infamy.

Our grief mingled with love grows the light brighter than ever;  prayers for mercy can effectively flood and extinguish the darkest of places.

Perhaps the last thing James Holmes might expect is that there are people who will pray for him as well.

It is only fair.