We find our path by walking, said Maya Angelou to her protege, Tavis Smiley.
We find our path by walking.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could find our path with our feet up, remote in hand, surfing the internet? Wouldn’t it be great if we could find our path in the comfort of our homes and cars, humming refrigerators, cozy beds, running water? Wouldn’t it be great if our purpose was revealed to us while we were hanging with friends, drinking beer, making life a big party?
This past year, post-Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, I am a changed person. I am at a point of no return. I can not be okay with easy, comfortable. I can not be okay with a life only filled with pleasure and personal achievement. I can no longer be okay with the acquisition of the American Dream, motivated by keeping up with the Joneses and their ever-moving, advancing line.
There are too many people in our nation who do not and can not have what I have been gifted. This great land of ours built upon freedom and equality is full of individuals who have to live in daily fear of their own government. There is an entire subset of our citizenry that must have heart wrenching conversations with their teenage boys before they walk out the door, who have to say to their husbands or wives, Just come home. Please make sure you come back to me. Words spoken to precious loved ones going to the store, or school, or the park, or work, or practice, or the gym, or on a walk…not to war.
There is a record-breaking number of people being killed for no good reason. We have a systemic racism problem…many of our citizens are not given the rights of full humanity. Much of this is not discussed, for fear of our own contribution. We choose to believe, as we go about our days, our routines, our business that if THEY just did MORE – pull themselves up by the bootstraps, get educated, work, earn a decent living – we could then accept their existence, seek justification for the dying and the inordinate rate of poverty and imprisonment.
I firmly believe, until white individuals can finally take a long and hard look at our privilege…nothing will change. Until we see the negative power of our comfort, things may get worse. We need a role model, a body to go before us and show us how it’s done. I need a concrete guide to do this work. I need permission. I must have the church.
The silence of the white American church is inexcusable. We are being offered an opportunity, to empathize, to be the light and love of Jesus Christ in our nation. To pour out mercy and do the essential work of reconciliation. Many churches have chosen a side, the side of safety. Choosing not to speak, not to engage in the work of bringing justice to the hurting and the marginalized is choosing the side of the oppressor. This is truth, fact, irrefutable.
I cannot make the blind see. I cannot change the world. I cannot add to the color of my skin and fully know the pain and suffering and fear of being black in this country. I cannot change my sexuality and understand being gay or transgender or questioning. I do not know mental illness or severe addiction.
However, I do have some puny bits of bread, a couple sad, skinny little fish, a few talents given to me by God. I can scrounge up a touch of courage, a crumb of faith, some dollars and cents. I am fairly healthy, with a waning energy level that must be fed with regular naps. I’ll turn my pockets inside out and discover a solid sense of what justice looks like, and love, and mercy. I am kind, with a nice smile and listening ear. I am registered to vote.
I want a co-op. I want a body of believers like me, of believers in right, of believers in justice and the sacredness of humanity…all humanity. I want fellow travelers, a church. I want us to combine our meager resources, come together with generosity, lighten the load, have some fun and do this essential work of love.
But instead, I get so frustrated. The discussion is minimal with no sense of urgency, let alone action. People are dying, suicide is rampant.
I need hope. Our broken people need hope.
I have no idea where to go, and I’ve been fairly dejected in recent days. I don’t want to travel the road of cynicism, anger, hopelessness. I long to be moved from my deepest places, by desire, love, compassion, empathy. Perfection cannot be expected, for this only immobilizes me.
The burden is too great, the fear is more than I can bear if I do this with guilt as my sole companion.
I must return again and again, morning by morning to surrender..to the gifts of hope, and peace, and joy. I must trust that my offering is enough..for in partnership with the Creator of my heart, soul, body, mind I am enough and I am capable of giving enough.
I choose trust. I choose to believe and know that in God, I live and move and have my being. And I must keep moving, carving, failing, falling….with humility and with great fear and trembling.
I choose to find my path by walking. Will you join me in the journey? I can’t promise comfort. I can’t promise ease. But I can promise satisfaction, the discovery of beauty and grace, wonder and lasting achievement.