Tag Archives: healing

stones for peace not outrage

Outrage made us sick; it cannot make us well

Think about your job. I’ll bet you accomplish a lot there. But are you outraged? Or do you just know what you need to do and you do it? Think about other areas of your life— family, friends, volunteer work, hobbies: there’s not one where outrage is held to be a necessary precondition for showing up and making a difference. Just the opposite: if you had a coworker who was constantly enraged, you’d be apologizing for him to customers, avoiding inviting him to meetings, wasting time cleaning up the unconstructive messes that he makes.

So, our nation has problems and we have to work together to fix them. The need is urgent. There is no time to lose. How would you solve a problem like that at work? Would outrage help? No, it would get in the way. The universal embrace of outrage is why things continue to get worse in our country instead of better. And I’m not talking about “them”, I’m talking about us.

The Bible has been teaching this wisdom for thousands of years, yet Christians have forgotten it. We are as outraged as anyone in today’s society. We quote a handful of verses in which Jesus was angry but we reject the overwhelming testimony of his life and the direct urgings of scripture. Consider:

  • A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger… The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-4)
  • You who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1)
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
  • Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:8)
  • Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God… Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. (James 1:19-26)
  • Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)

There are hundreds more and I could go on, but if I do this post is going to be really boring.

We are being told that the weak medicine of peace and grace and love for our enemies has no power to heal. We are being told that strong medicine in the form of outrage and hate will make us well.

It isn’t true. That “medicine” is destroying us. We cannot become well by increasing the dose. There is a medicine with the power to heal. How sick must we become before we are willing to take it?

rainbow after the storm

“Nothing to shout about”, or, my four-month break

It was July 4th. That was when I decided I needed a break. Four months. Important things have happened in that time. Much of it never made the news.

  • We found a new church home. My daughter was hugely relieved as she gets attached easily and “church dating” has been really hard on her.
  • I returned to Yosemite for the first time since my childhood best friend was killed there in a rock climbing accident in 2005. It was even more beautiful than I remembered.
  • In Monterey, my wife and I spent 10 hours battling seasickness in a tiny boat to see an actual, live albatross in flight overhead, something I had wanted to do since I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at age 12.
  • Within three days in late September, two of my favorite bloggers each posted that they are hanging it up, one for a break, and the other, for good.
  • My family witnessed, together, an outcome in the World Series unprecedented since before my daughter’s great-grandparents were born.
  • And yes, our country chose a new president, and I have sat with various friends through all their different reactions: some elated, some terrified.

I have posted before about sabbath: how important, and yet how little valued it is in our day. Especially for those who believe in their work, it is easy to justify the never-ending, bit-by-bit deplenishment of spirit that comes from doing just one more small thing.

Important things have been happening in our society. I know what I’m supposed to do if I want to be a successful writer: I need to write about what’s hot. I need to tap into the zeitgeist. I can only be relevant by connecting with an audience, and if this is a hard, cynical age, marked by division and mistrust, then I need to toss a coin, choose my side, and start shouting.

That is what I could not bring myself to do. As I stood on the sidelines these past four months, witness to all the sound and fury, I could not help remembering the words from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”

I care passionately about what is happening in our society. I believe this is a historic moment. And I believe, at a time like this, that some things— like how we treat those who disagree— are more important than which side wins.

Some hear me calling for reconciliation and mutual respect, and they hear only the voice of white privilege, brimming with complaisance and naïveté. Some hear the voice of betrayal. Some hear nice words but with no real power. But I do not believe that Christ was complacent or naïve, or that bipartisanship equals betrayal, and as for those “nice words”: history has shown they are the only words with any real power to heal.

Relearning to love after we lost our baby

Compassion for “them”: relearning to love the people we were before we lost our baby

When you read about a horrible disaster— a doomed airliner, a tsunami, anything that suddenly shatters peace and calm and well-being— when you read an article like that, sometimes there are “before” photos. The people in harm’s way are normal people, just doing what normal people do: having fun, laughing, taking selfies… They’re enjoying themselves, and sometimes the photos survive and get published after the fact. You look at the people in those photos, and you can see it in their eyes: there’s an innocence, a naïveté, an uncomplicated trust. They have no idea what’s about to happen to them.

We have photos like that all over our house. They aren’t disaster photos. They are photos of our wedding. Of our family trips when our two oldest kids were small. Of us at the coffee shop, that time we snuck in a date night and my wife surprised me with a little white stick whose digital read-out bore the single word “Pregnant”. That was a good night. We were happy. We took photos.

From that day on, we rechristened our family as “Party of Five”. We bought bunk beds and a mini-van, and a gigantic double-stroller that we called “The Land Behemoth”. After the ultrasound, we started buying boy clothes. One said, “Little Rookie”. Another, we bought in Napa; it said, “Vintage 2007”. And then there was the picture my wife didn’t want to take. I scheduled our church directory sitting about a week before our due date; she wanted to do it after he was born, but the dates wouldn’t work, so we did it beforehand anyway. We didn’t know that was the last photo there would ever be with our entire party of five. We didn’t know there was already a kink in his umbilical cord. We didn’t know we were about to lose a baby.

When something bad happens to your children, part of you has a biological need to blame yourself.

When you look at the people in those pre-disaster photos, sometimes you want to reach through that lens and warn them. How much more so when those people are you? When something bad happens to your children, part of you has a biological need to blame yourself, and for a while, we were so angry at “those people” in our photos. They were so stupid and ignorant. They should have done more. They should have known.

Our baby boy (Boaz, we named him) would have turned 8 this year, and in that time, learning to have grace for “those people” has been an important part of our healing. Many of the lessons we learned from scripture have helped with that journey:

  • Matthew 24:38 says, “…and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came.” In the same way, we had to realize, there was no way we could have known. We did the same things that everyone else does; it was not our fault that it worked out well for them and badly for us.
  • Ecclesiastes repeatedly talks about things that are meaningless. We had fixated on finding the meaning: what was God trying to tell us (or being honest, why was he punishing us)? We finally had to let that go, realizing our need to “find the meaning” was a need to keep control. Instead, letting go and rejoining life was the legacy we wanted our baby to have. As Ecclesiastes finally concludes, “There is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”
  • For me, the greatest lesson was from 1 Peter 4: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the painful trial that has come upon you to test you, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” The redemptiveness of Christ’s passion was never so clear to me as in the midst of our own grief. His suffering was not wasted, and through our own suffering, the scripture says, we gain a unique partnership in that redemption.

I do not believe that God causes suffering, and I do not agree with the many people who say, “God did this to teach you… whatever.” We live in a fallen world, and we have to live here, because we are fallen too. Bad things happen here. That is not God’s fault, because this isn’t the place he designed us for. But he is here at work in this place too, finding ways to bring redemption out of the heartbreak that inevitably accompanies our life under the sun. As I became fond of saying in the midst of our loss: “Out of soil the devil has sown for evil, God can make many good and green and living things to grow.”

This article originally appeared as a guest posting at Me Too Moments For Moms.