I was twenty years old when the plane hit the twin towers. I remember standing at the gas pump on Texas Avenue filling the tank of my used red CRV because Mom told me over the phone that she’d heard we might have a gas shortage, and I should fill up. I remember thinking that filling up my car with gas was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I wanted to drop out of school. I wanted to do something meaningful. The frailty of life and the deeply fucked up nature of the world had been made too obvious for me to keep pretending that math grades mattered.
I wrote through my distress (a reflection that became my first piece published in a magazine), and concluded that I wasn’t called to leave. I was called to be faithful in the small things for now, to love the people around me and believe that God was sovereign. I returned to the math homework.
But it’s a tension that never leaves: I proclaim that God makes all things new, and that making dirty dishes sparkle is part of that. I say that it matters that I recycle and try to buy organic and pray and give money and take casseroles to new mothers and remember birthdays. But when something happens that rips the careless bandages off the festering wounds of the world, I have a hard time believing that taking the plastics and paper into the recycling center matters. I still want to quit everything and go.
I almost left on Friday. I almost put the kids in the car and drove the five hours south to Ferguson, but Jack asked questions, and I couldn’t explain what good it would do. I tried to imagine how I’d explain the sights to my five year-old and three year-old.
“A police officer shot a teenager, and so the community is angry.”
“But I thought police were supposed to protect us,” she’d say. “Did he do something wrong?”
“No. He didn’t.”
I imagined my children, scared by the tanks, the masks, the guns, the lines, the shouting. I imagined them hearing an officer of the law call them “fucking animals” as they stood with me on the protest line.
And it seemed to me that if my neighbors had to grow up afraid of police, then my children should have to face that too.
I haven’t blogged about this because it doesn’t feel like my story. I didn’t go. I’m not there. I’m not black. I worry that my words will come from a place of privilege and be tone deaf.
But I am human. And I am Christian. And I am American. And my heart burns within me.
I’m hurt that more white Christians have not gone to Ferguson to join the protests.
I’m ashamed to have grown up in a culture that implicitly privileged me at almost every turn.
I’m thankful that I won’t have to have a talk with my son in a few years about how dangerous the world is for him because of his skin color.
I’m thankful for twitter and the way it makes injustice so much harder to hide.
I despair and cry how long, oh lord? And I allow that tension to exist: the passionate desire to want to go and to do something - yes, to change the world - must exist alongside my faithfulness in the daily things in front of me, must inform my choices and my words.
I hope, and I want to believe in the kind of peace that Isaiah talks about, rebuilding roads and restoring neighborhoods, righting old injustices and making scorched land into a well-watered garden. I see hints of it in men like Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who prayed, listened, and walked with the peaceful protestors. He lets me believe that there is another kingdom, where peace and justice reign and earthly empires are vanquished, where the military-industrial complex is not god.
They are short-lived, those glimpses of hope, but I hold them like prayer beads, and lift my hands, and pray.
The Front Lines of Ferguson at Grantland
The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail by Christena Cleveland
Looting is Never the Problem by Kevin Hargaden
In which I have a few things to tell you about #ferguson by Sarah Bessey