Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fire and bones

 But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. [Jeremiah 20:9 NIV]

Photo by Lon Martin via Flickr Creative Commons License

A friend of mine posted this verse from Jeremiah the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Thinking about fire and words and how it seems that we flip between two extremes, letting our own words burn inside or letting them out to lay waste and burn others. I know Jeremiah is speaking about prophetic things and Words from God; I lay no claims to being a prophet or hearing Words, but don't we all still sometimes walk that line of trying to figure out when to speak up and when to shut up?

We'd speak up, but then we'd know where we differ from our friends and isn't it safer to keep the silence and the friendship intact?

We'd speak up, but we aren't articulate like that person over there.

We'd speak up, but what if we're wrong?

We'd speak up, but we're confident in our stance and don't want to start an argument.

We'd speak up, but we're ashamed of our brokenness.

We'd speak up, but what if our words aren't worth saying?

We'd speak up, but we feel alone.

We'd speak up, but we don't want to waste our time.

We'd speak up, but we don't trust others to hold us and our words gently...or maybe we're afraid that we won't be gentle with theirs.

I learned early on how to be silent; I think that many of us do. We hold our words in; we stifle our thoughts, our feelings, our opinions, and our dreams. Everyone else seems so certain, we just defer to them because it's simpler than risking words. Easier than risking laying our feelings bare.

I was good with that for a long time. The silent introvert, hovering on the edges, never really taking a stand, never saying anything of great importance because the specter of disagreement was a frightening shade.

But then there's that fire burning within us.

Shut it up too long and it melts our bones, it wearies us. We exist as incomplete people because it's the being known that completes us. And yes, disagreement bears the potential to melt the bones and wear us out; I've been there, most of us have been there. But there's always that potential for new life to flourish when the dead has been burned away, when the heat brings new seeds to life, when the air and the sun can finally reach down and touch new growth.

I'm weary of keeping silence in the name of keeping peace.

I want to speak up, to wade into disagreement with my friends, trusting that the God of peace can breathe unity in the midst of all our disagreement, trusting that friendship doesn't call us to be mental clones.

I want to speak up, in all my inarticulate fumbling, trusting that it is the heart that reaches out, that other hearts will understand.

I want to speak up, even if I'm wrong, because if we all waited for absolute certainty little of value would ever get said.

I want to speak up, but be humble enough to listen.

I want to speak up, to share the brokenness and the being made whole so that others can see hope.

I want to speak up, because we all have worthless words sometimes, but more often they are the words that someone needs. And we don't know the difference unless we speak them.

I want to speak up, because that's how I become known.

I want to speak up, because I don't want my thoughts to waste away.

I want to speak up. To hold my own words gently, an offering of warmth and not a wildfire of judgement.

It's time to speak up, because that's where community forms.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The way of the Cross

Yesterday morning some well-intentioned local meteorologist posted a shot of the radar showing from the National Weather Service with the question "What do you suppose is causing that cross near our radar?" While some people surmised about geese, cars, or aliens, there were, predictably, some who said "Well of course, it's Good Friday! It's God showing his love for us!" Which begs the question, why was God wasting his time showing his love to a bunch of comfortable, middle-class American Christians while half a world away letting nearly 150 people, many of them Christians, die at the hands of al-Shabab?

It also raises the question, which is more like the true message of the cross? Is it the warm pat on the back from God, the celestial affirmation that borders on the superstitious? Or is the message of the cross wrapped up in blood and nightmare, violence and loss, and the voices of a broken world calling out, "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

The cross is only joy because we know what comes tomorrow. We know that what was done on the cross did something in the unseen spiritual world. For some, that's enough. But the reality is, we are still living in a Saturday world. We've seen the world ripped apart at its seams and the cross isn't enough to convince us there will be a resurrection at the end. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the gay Christian, spurned by the church that he loved. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the teen struggling to be loved, cutting herself open to let the pain flow out. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the mothers teaching their black sons to be polite, to be MORE, to reach a standard not imposed on their friends so that they come home at night. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the children, forced to flee homes for their faith, starving and cold in the refugee camps. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the ones who go to war, and the ones they war against. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's the fathers holding a baby who has just breathed her last. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

It's this whole mess of humanity, with all of our hurts, our aches, our wonderings and our not-knowings, looking for a sign. "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

And the warm and fuzzy, the cross in the radar and Jesus in a piece of toast, they just aren't going to cut it any more. Because it's Saturday and we are living in this cross-shadowed world and it is broken.


We will wake up tomorrow morning and we will celebrate the rest of the story. Jesus, conquering death, saving the world. And yet...we're still living in Saturday. Two thousand years later and it's STILL Saturday. STILL waiting for the promise of a world made new where pain and sorrow are no more, where the lion lies down with the lamb and there will be no sickness, no killing, no death on all God's holy mountain. And all I know for sure is, I'm tired of trying to squint to see the cross in the radar map when my feet want to carry me out to sit with the ones calling the darkness, "My God, my God...have you forsaken me?"

*Photo of refugee girl by Zoriah via Flickr creative common license.