Sometimes, current events reveal deep fears and hidden anxieties about the status quo and the state of things to come: Brexit, the Dakota pipeline protests, the U.S. elections, escalating hate crimes. If we read between the lines, we usually discover that false peace has been shattered.
Sometimes, we declare: “Enough is enough.” We draw the line in the sand, stand in our power and say, “No.” This position usually requires trusting in an outcome we may not yet see, as we determine how much gentleness, compassion and wisdom is needed to bring reconciliation and true peace.
I think of Thomas Paine’s ardent declaration: “These are the times which try men’s souls.” Though many times can try our souls. The “trying times” are those which invite us to deepen our faith, to work our spiritual muscles at the core, as we decide what we truly believe and how we want to behave.
As I contemplate recent events, I also process information from a University of Florida conference keynote on meaning-making and purpose. The speaker noted that Gen Z (1995-2010) is the most anxious of all generations, often drowning in feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm.
Everywhere, pain is palpable. This past week, I heard the mournful cry of a wheelchair-bound veteran who believed his service was for naught. I saw the glazed faces of mourners at a memorial service, for a man who died too young. I felt the sorrow, the aching in my own community, at our annual Remembrance Sunday service. I watched people weep, many openly.
Right now, the world feels heavy, with the weight of people who are angry, disheartened, disgusted and afraid. As in the first stages of grief, day-to-day living can feel like moving through life in slow motion, as if trying to wade through a pool of molasses in body armor.
In the days, weeks and months to come, some of us may reflect on what Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama might do. Though for now, I contemplate the words of Jesus’s brother, James (3:13-17), from his brief letter which many Bible scholars believe was written for churches attempting to overcome their own trying times.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom . . . the wisdom from above [which] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of compassion and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. For a harvest of virtue is sown in peace by those who make peace.
This time, as we sow, let us be wise and tread gently. Let us be willing to pause and listen to the outcries. Let us be willing not only to feel the pain, but to grieve and move through it. Let us encourage deep reflection and support true healing, instead of settling, yet again, for empty promises, lofty platitudes, quick fixes, and band-aid solutions. This time, finally, let us harvest the fruits of true and lasting peace.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.
This is wisdom. This is the hunger of true peacemakers. This passage from James is one we would do well to memorize.