The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. -Elie Wiesel
Despair. Utter, gut-wrenching, immobilized despair. I had nothing, I could give nothing other than a few words on a page. In a final ditch effort to redeem the waning day, I did what I do. I took a walk. I prayed. I cried. I questioned.
God and I needed to have words. She needed to hear my heart. I needed to grieve, question, lay it down, confess. I wasn’t angry, just so so so sad, so many questions, so few answers. My heart broken over the state of millions in the world, the state of lives in my world. I had chosen ignorant blindness for the Middle East, the problem seemed so vast, so overwhelming, so far away. But that picture, that story, the boy, the weeping father…it changed the game. No longer a them thing or an over there thing, it became a that could be me thing.
At the end of myself and my power, my understanding…I wept. Tears of desperation fell while Clem and I traipsed the one-and-a-half mile circumference of our local reservoir. Sun dipping below the jagged mountain-line, illuminated clouds and sky. Mirror image reflected in the still waters. A regal heron perched on the rock shoreline, surveying my same view, I’m sure with different motivations. Geese arriving all at once, circle-landing, roosting for the night in bobbing numbers. Bald eagles perched high in the distant cottonwoods. Their undeniable rectangular forms silhouetted against the dusk. Another heron alighting across the sleek liquid surface.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-26)
My faith frayed, tattered, dragging. How can this be? This utter helpless hopelessness? How is this possible? How is it allowed? Why? The ache of my personal struggles, the suffering of friends, the stories, commingled with the pain of the world, the cries for relief, yearning for death. Groans of the nations.
Pleading questions with no answers, fear stretched out, the last bits of power and self-righteousness conceded. Nothing. Nothing left but my sobs. And finally, the only response available, use me. The beckoning of surrender, Be Still and Know that I am God. The final moment, knowing in my human-ness that I am Peter – fully capable of denying the call of my Savior, my best friend, my companion, pretending I never even knew Him. The humility and powerlessness reverberating with tears, eclipsing of pride. Ego shrieking for significance alongside the letting go.
God asked me to take a walk, to lay it out there, on the trail, at sunset with the birds as our only witness. She listened and responded in Her most abundant ways, through beauty, through creation. She urged me to rest, to lay my head on Her formidable bosom, to concede control, to dwell. God knows my humanity. She knows my capacity for love, grace, mercy AND apathy, rejection, hate. I am all this. And yet, I am called. I must respond. I must continue to choose discomfort, to see, to learn. The temptation so great to ignore, to continue in blindness. To focus on only the happy and never the suffering is like music with all treble and no bass; the paddle board without the fin…scooting from one thing, drifting to fill me, my emptiness. Easily forgetting, our capacity for joy equals the degree to which we experience suffering, whether it’s our own, or the empathy and compassion we carry for another, the burdens we choose to bear, the weight we own because we can, because we are human.
Gazing over the water, the many birds kept safely, reminded of the meticulous care given, their numbered and counted feathers. Wondering about the millions of refugees seeking a place to lay it down, to live life, to fill bellies…wondering about the questions and pain in my own neighborhood.
What if through our surrender and love, the power becomes greater than our fear and impotence?
Nearing the end of the walk, completing the circled trail, light disappearing – a sense, a small voice sweet and still:
Thank you for trusting me.