My heart has been heavy lately.
I have been feeling a deep heaviness for the trouble around us:
- the hateful killings that took place in Orlando
- the cases of sexual assault where justice seems elusive
- the confusion around what it means to welcome and care for refugees and newcomers
- the profound sadness that seems to have entrapped some First Nation communities
- the silence or confused response of many Christians and churches
I’ve been trying to work through what I, what we, are supposed to do with such heaviness and trouble. I find it especially hard when it seems so overwhelming and confusing. It is easy to get stuck in doing nothing, saying nothing. Here’s how I’m working it through.
1. PERMISSION TO SCREAM. As this heaviness has been building,I recognized I just had to scream. I had to say it out loud – this is sad, this is not right, this is awful. Name it. Call what is unjust, unjust. One of the things I appreciate about the Psalms, a book of poetry in the Bible, is it is a record of people’s unfiltered sadness, anger and confusion poured out to God. And they are not reprimanded for it, not at all, instead we celebrate the Psalms and the range of human emotions expressed to God. Rather than getting angry with others or letting my frustration come out at work, I’m learning to bring my unfiltered thoughts and emotions to God. What makes you want to scream? Have you told God?
2. FEEL. One day a man asks Jesus a very religious question, “How do I inherit eternal life?” In other words, “Who is out and who is in, and am I in?” This man wants to justify himself. Jesus answers with an extremely practical answer, the story of the good Samaritan – a person who felt compassion for another and acted. The key phrase is, “He felt compassion.” No qualifiers about the person who is in trouble matter. In fact, we find out the Good Samaritan was considered an arch enemy, so it doesn’t matter if the person is your arch enemy… you show mercy. The essential point is he felt compassion and acted. Exercise your compassion muscles. Take the time to hear people’s stories. Allow yourself to feel compassion and be moved by compassion. What are the emotions, the stories behind what is happening?
3. ACT OUT GOD’S HEART OF COMPASSION. There is a profound moment that has stuck with me, when it truly felt like evil was winning all around me.
In our little community we were surrounded by fresh stories of tragedies – teen suicide, young people in a tragic car accident, sexual abuse, and corruption of those who were supposed to help. One morning, while on a youth retreat, I woke up super early. I was scheduled to speak that morning and I told the Lord,
“I can’t do it. I got nothing here. Evil is winning.” I followed my own advice above – I screamed at the Lord, I deeply felt the hurt that was being caused to people, families, and a community. Just when I thought God would give me encouragement and a hug from heaven, I strongly sensed him saying, “Renée, I’ve got the victory here, now act like it.” It changed my whole perspective. The truth is evil does not win. Christ wins – love wins, compassion wins, forgiveness wins, justice wins. So, I started acting like Christ’s victory was real (because it is). The first thing I did was cook an over-the-top, lavish breakfast for the youth, to start to show radical kindness. We must tangibly show the alternative to the way of hate and division by showing the way of kindness and love. The best thing you can do in the face of the tragic events happening in our world – act out God’s heart for compassion and justice now. In the midst of tragic events, we also hear stories of people who act on compassion – rush into danger to help others, open their homes and churches for people to grieve, line up to give blood. How can you tangibly show God’s radical kindness, mercy and love?
This is an edited excerpt of one of Renée’s blog posts. For the full version and more of her reflections visit www.oneneighbourhood.org.