I was going through my drafts on WordPress and came across this post. I wrote it in the summer initially, and debated about posting it, and never did. But as we close out 2016, I do want to share my thoughts on what has transpired in our country over the last 366 days, specifically this summer. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well, so feel free to leave them in the comments below.
I’ve struggled with what to say on the events that have transpired during the summer in our country. I don’t think one post, sermon, or comment can fix it all by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no filter you can apply to the wounds, divisions, and hurts that will make it “better.” What do you say to the families who lost loved ones? To those who’s communities have been shattered? Words are scarcely comforting in those times.
But I think each thoughtful word, collectively, can be healing. Thoughtful words, collectively, can bring unity and understanding. So here I am to speak to the collective effort to heal, to understand, to unite our country.
In mulling over the opinions I’ve heard, reading scripture, and Biblical teaching, there are a few areas that merit focus, which I hope to strengthen in my own life and cast a vision for in my family’s life.
My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion… Proverbs 3:21
In all the tragedies that have transpired, I think everyone, and by everyone I mean everyone, needs to foster a deeper, stronger understanding. I think we have let understanding get far enough down the road that we can’t see it anymore. We need to quicken our pace and catch back up to wisdom. There needs to be a better understanding of the communities we live in, gained only by time and relationships.
If you are only informed by your own experiences and can’t stretch your mind to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, that’s where you need to start. Again, it’s not about invalidating someone’s experiences, hurt, beliefs, but if you can’t even empathize with someone a little bit, then we might as well quit. If you can’t put yourself in a community with a history of limited options, fatherlessness, and needs and burdens beyond what you can imagine, then try a little harder. If you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to daily, hourly, put yourself in harm’s way for your fellow man, try a little harder.
In doing so, hopefully there will be a greater desire to actually fix the broken sidewalk that people fall and skin their knees on, instead of putting an endless supply of Band-aids on skinned knees. It will take more work to fix the sidewalk than to unwrap a bandage. Good things that last take work, effort and humility.
To be a Christian is to move toward need, not comfort. — John Piper, “Bloodlines”
There needs to be a deeper understanding of what law enforcement does do for our communities on a daily basis. No more can we view and overshare seven-second videos and proclaim to know the truth about a police and citizen encounter. There also needs to be a deeper understanding of the issues facing our communities today. No more can you make blanket statements about what is or isn’t the problem. Just because you know what the bark on one oak tree looks like does not mean you understand a forest. There is danger in zooming in too close on an issue, one altercation, one traffic stop. We need to step back, zoom out, and make an effort to add perspective to our experiences.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7
Though it cost all we have. Are we willing to go to those type of lengths to get understanding? Are you willing to get down into the nitty gritty of people’s lives? Are you willing to put yourself in their shoes? Are you willing to trust the training and knowledge of someone else, trust their training and knowledge that you may or may not have? As you ponder that, it brings me to my next point.
Quit expecting the solution to be comfortable. It’s going to be uncomfortable. There are
decades centuries of wrongs that have transpired to bring us to where we are today. It ain’t going to be fixed overnight, in a few weeks, or in six months. There will be frustration, mistrust, pride, stubbornness, ignorance, anger, and hate that must work itself to the surface, just like shrapnel working its way to the surface of a wounded arm or leg. It causes pain on the way to bringing healing to the limb in question.
Our country has a lot of shrapnel working its way to the surface and we need to give each other the grace and space to correct, learn and heal. What are your expectations of your neighbors, of yourself, of this journey? Are they realistic or unrealistic? If the expectations include “the other side” (whatever side that may be) coming to their senses and little work to be done on your part, adjust those expectations. If you expect this to happen with any sort of speed, streamlined-ness, or clarity, adjust those expectations and schedule in some discomfort and some growing pains.
Viktor Frankl, a psychologist, survived one of the horrific concentration camps of WWII and went on to write “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I finished reading it earlier this summer and was so intrigued by his thoughts on tension in difficult circumstances of life.
I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or as it is called in biology, homeostasis (tension-less state). What man actually needs is not this tension-less state, but rather striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely-chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him. — Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”
Notice he said struggling for a worthwhile goal. The goal of getting the most air time, the most sympathy, or being right at all costs are not worthwhile goals. They are a waste of time, and don’t solve the problem. Worthwhile goals are listening, understanding, and changing our ways to actually solve a problem.
Deep Not Wide
The issues facing our country are overwhelming. There’s no way other way to put it. There’s no way that EVERYONE can address ALL the issues. So pick one thing. Seriously one thing, one issue that most directly affects you and your community. Maybe it’s not even one issue, but one aspect of one issue. That’s doable. And if EVERYONE does ONE thing that’s doable, now we are getting somewhere. We need to refocus our efforts to go deep, not wide. Drill one hole for one well instead of trying to water a whole field with your own Yeti thermos.
As Christians, we specifically need to have the attitude that we are in it for the long haul.
Adrenaline produces a spurt of needed energy, then lets the body drop. But the heart keeps on pumping life into the body in good times and hard times, winter and summer, sad and happy, strong and weak, sick and well! Oh, for more coronary Christians in the cause of racial justice, not just adrenaline Christians. – John Piper, “Bloodlines”
This piece is intended to encourage the body of believers. My writing is discipleship-driven, driven to cultivate and activate truth that people are already walking in. So I point again to the cross. I point to the cross, and let that be the last word. John Piper’s “Bloodlines” has so strongly reminded me that Jesus’ finished work on the cross is the ultimate solution which defeats sin of all kinds, remedies centuries-old maladies, and brings forth freedom, grace and courage.
The gospel IS the answer, but the working of that takes time.
We’ve seen quite enough wrongs, fear, weakness, harshness and hate in the last several months to last a lifetime, haven’t we? I know I have.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 3:12
Let’s keep pressing on. Let’s keep listening, seeking out understanding, repenting where needed. Let’s quit striving for a tension-less state and embrace the growth that pain and tension can bring forth. Let’s focus our efforts and energy where they can actually make a difference. And let’s look to the cross.