running into the pain
I have many, many thoughts and big feelings about our world right now. I am sitting in my woods at the moment, though, and it’s so peaceful.
I hear birds singing and leaves rustling. Sweet Hans, my Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd, who never lets me venture into these woods alone, is panting beside me, although I am sure he would much rather be lying on our cool basement floor.
While I am cocooned right now in peace and contentment, however, a mess is unraveling in the world outside these woods.
I have a lot to say about that mess.
In fact, I have a half-written post on my laptop that I thought I was writing. I got distracted, though, when I started typing out a long parenthetical paragraph that has since become this post.
While the four of us went to a protest last Sunday and returned unscathed, Amélie was at a peaceful protest last Saturday evening and ended up getting tear gassed. Let me tell you, dear people (many of whom also love my Amélie), that these are not the words any mama wants to hear her daughter tell you. She told me her story on Sunday morning, pausing every once in a while to cough with tear-gas irritated lungs. As she spoke, my heart squeezed with both rabid fear and fierce pride for this daughter of mine who is both precious and brave.
She said many things.
Many beautiful things.
Many hard things.
But here’s the thing she said that I will never, ever forget.
She said that, when the police sprayed tear gas into the crowd, protestors who were out of range of the poisonous air ran towards the smoke.
They ran towards the smoky, choking air – not away from it – so that they could pour baking soda water or milk into the eyes of those who were gassed. Amélie poured water and baking soda into stinging eyes, and some soul whom I wish, as Amélie’s mama, I could thank, poured water and baking soda into hers.
Isn’t this image, as Glennon Doyle would say, “brutiful,” both brutal and beautiful?
What could be more brutiful – more brutal and beautiful – than literally running into someone’s pain.
There’s so much about Christianity right now that makes my heart ache. I have said multiple times in the last few years that if I didn’t keep going back again and again to the gospels and reading about who Jesus is, I might have abandoned this whole religion that claims to follow him. This thing that happened at the protest, though, gives me hope and reminds me, in visual, tactile images, of a Jesus who also ran right into people’s pain. When Jesus crossed paths with a man who was blind, he didn’t turn away from this person who was misunderstood, mistreated, and discriminated against. Instead, he turned towards him, spoke to him. Then, he crouched in the dirt, spit, and touched that blind man’s eyes so that he could see again. I truly believe that, if Jesus were here today, we would see him in some scandalous news clip, running, not away from people’s pain, but towards it, right into the thick of heart-wrenching hurt and searing anger and choking smoke, pouring a healing stream of milk or baking soda water into people’s pain.
I think Amélie was part of a holy moment.
And I think we have the opportunity (the calling) to be part of holy moments, too. I’m not saying you have to show up at a protest (although that’s a place to start).
But I am saying you have to show up…somehow….
If we, as Christians, aren’t the voice of those who are silenced, mistreated, and discriminated against, then who even are we? What do we even stand for?
My Jesus, the one who used the following litmus test to separate those who would inherit the kingdom of God from those who would not, said….
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”
“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
“I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
“I needed clothes and you clothed me.”
“I was sick and you looked after me.”
“I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
He would always stand with the oppressed, and he would not only stand with them, but he would run towards them…into the smoke, and into their pain.
I think that’s the direction he wants me to run, too.