The sky is a brilliant blue this day, and a warm breeze is rustling the leaves beyond my window. I spent three hours in the sun this morning; raking, trimming, pruning, digging. My lackluster interest in gardening has been evident in my front flowerbeds for far too long. Leaves from last Fall piled into the corners, dandelions had made their home deep, deep in the soil, and there is a very prickly Holly bush growing within an Azalea. Why do we think Holly is pretty? Why do we decorate with it at Christmas? Not me, never again. I thought the work would bring me instant satisfaction. The truth of the matter is that it does look a bit better. But, honestly I have no idea what I am doing and toward the end of the morning some weeds (read clover, who knew!?) were just too frustrating to tackle. The truth of the matter is that I love to admire a pretty lawn and garden. I want my home to have curb appeal. But I desire to do none of the hard labor that goes into such an endeavor.
A sure reminder for me this day that while the sun shines so brilliantly for most of us, it is a dark day for so many other children of God. A dark day because hatred is so deeply, deeply rooted into the soil of our society. And it spreads, it multiplies like kudzoo or that nasty, nasty clover. It spreads in such a way that to the untrained eye it does not seem threatening. Hatred is so often disguised as something else. And we don't mind the weeds so much when they are blooming. Extracting the ugly, the hatred from our neighborhoods, our churches, our workplaces, our world...it would take so much work. And do we even have the right tools? Better to pray it will disappear with a hard rain or a biting frost.
It is a dark day because people in this world, God's world, are hurting. People I love are hurting. People I don't know are hurting. Hurting because of love. Hurting because of hatred that threatens the joy and promise of that love. I am saddened by how common place such situations have become in our world. I am sad that it no longer shocks me to hear of mass shootings. It no longer shocks me that people have been slaughtered in places of sanctuary because of who they choose to love. Or the color of their skin. Or the name they use for God. I don't understand it. For the love of God, I cry out for wisdom and understanding. Because I do not think I will ever understand it.
For some this is a time to place blame on our politicians and to beg for policy changes, for stricter gun laws. I am on board with that. I would not take away the right to own a gun for the sake of protection or sport. But the problem today is when you're selling a gun, how in the world do you tell what kind of customer you serve? Guns in the hands of the wrong people kill people. I don't pretend to understand politics and laws. Better here to admit my ignorance and call it a day. But, can't we all agree that something must happen. Something is better than nothing.
For some this is a time to place blame on a particular religion, whether it be Islam (so often the scapegoat) or the institution of religion entirely. So much more for the media to exploit when fingers are pointed, sweeping strokes over an entire group of people or a religion rather than looking at the individual who committed the crime. In Genesis 4:10 we read the Lord's response to the murder of Cain by his brother Abel:"And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!" I grow weary of telling people that Islam is a religion that proclaims peace. Amazing that we have no problem claiming self-righteously that Christians are peace-loving... although so many actions speak louder. You will read what you like. You will hear what you like. You will believe what you like. So sad that some people in this world have closed eyes and ears to the opportunities for dialogue and understanding.
For some this is a time to place blame on the LGBTQ community. A time to shame children of God for exercising their basic rights as humans to gather together, to live and love each day. Hate the sin not the sinner? Is that it? Actions such as those in Orlando reflect hating the sinner, not the sin (as some call it). So easy to throw such language around when one is not living through experiences in which such blatant ignorance and discrimination is cast. I have friends who are gay, people who I love and respect. People who live each day dedicated to their significant other, who work and play and love just as I do. It sickens me to think that this event could ever have been them. I don't love them in spite of being gay. I don't love them for being gay. I just love them just as they are-- as children of God. You might be hearing a similar theme from me now: judgment of one another does not help solve our problems. But, I speak from both sides of my mouth as a feel judgments bubbling within me even as I write because there are individuals who do not see through the same lens as me.
It is scary to consider that such an atrocity could happen to anyone, at any time because suddenly hatred is okay. Is it? I hope not, but it seems that way because we are numbed to violence, we let politicians spew hate speech and despicable racial degradation. We seem to delight in the unfolding drama of finger-pointing and scapegoating to the point that I don't see anyone of power or merit actually listening to one another or effecting any positive change. And here I am, I add my voice to the cacophony. The voice of a middle-class, straight, white, Christian of privilege.
Friends, our garden is being over-run. The beautiful fruits we are meant to bear are being choked to death by hatred. By violence. By ignorance. What can we do? The work is so hard. It is so overwhelming. In my little corner of the garden here is what I will do.
I will pray. What good will come of those prayers I do not yet know but I will pray for the people in the world to open their eyes and ears to people who are from the other side... whatever side that is; political, social, religious, economic. I will pray for a healing dialogue to take place. I will pray for the people of this world who find themselves in such a desperate life that they believe violence against one another is the answer. I will pray for people who are discriminated against, people who live in terror that this could happen in their own places of sanctuary.
I will add my voice to the chorus calling for love. Love that drives out darkness and hatred. And when I sing that song alongside my brothers and sisters I will keep one ear open for the cries that come back to me, to learn and discern how we might strive to live together, even in our differences.
I will teach our son how to respect all people as children of God. I will encourage him to learn about other faiths. I will encourage him to have friends from all 'walks of life'. I will ask him what he thinks about current events. And as much as I might desire to shelter him from the harsh realities of this world, I will engage him in critical thinking about what all this means for him and how he might work to make the garden beautiful again.
Perhaps you will join me in considering what you might do in your little corner of the garden. There is work to be done. Always, always work to be done.