September 22, 2016
Well, it’s happened again... several times. More shots have been fired, more red blood has been spilled, more lives have been lost, more inflammatory names have been shouted and screamed - some in pain and death’s agony - more threats have been made, more eyewitnesses have told their stories, more tears have been shed, more grief has been washing all around our feet and hearts. This week, it’s been in Charlotte, NC. I don’t know what happened; the stories are still coming out; but hearts have been broken and trust left in tatters.
This morning, I heard someone say on the radio that “We don’t know who to trust anymore. We don’t know what words we are to believe.” You know already that Trust and Trust-worthy are two sides of the same coin, and they are undeniably and integrally related. Along the way, we have all trusted those who were not worthy. We’ve taken, and we’ve often found ourselves washed over with the bitter waves of betrayal, pain, and suffering from loss. It may be that we lost “some thing” tangible like a bit of money, or an object such as a book or a toy or even an item of great value, symbolic or real. Or the loss may have been in relational terms, like the shattering of a friendship, or the admiration of another that was decimated when a trust was betrayed or a confidence was broken. It is a consummately risky thing to expose oneself - like the first time you dared to say to your “best girl/fellow” those 3 little words: ”I love you.” They may misunderstand your intentions, or not care, or may not reciprocate your feelings and emotions, or worst of all, they may deride your gift and leave you looking/feeling foolish and exposed and vulnerable. (Of course, they may respond in kind, which is the best you can hope for!) There’s always a risk in self-disclosure.
In whom do you trust? God? The Church? The Nation? Family? Friends? The innate goodness of other people? The Police? The members of our national military? In the ‘70's (and often since then), there were those “Trust” exercises, like falling backward toward a crowd, trusting that someone would catch you before you hit the ground.... or walking blindfolded for several hundred steps led by a presumably trustworthy person who wouldn’t allow you to step off a curb into traffic, or lead you into some overhanging ledge, or bump you into a glass door!
In the world in which I grew up, police officers were trusted, as they were the enforcers of the laws which maintain order and dependability in our world. They kept folks from driving too fast, prevented them from robbing banks and stores, and came to the rescue of people in dangerous situations. I want to remember them as treating all persons with dignity and honor and equity, under the oft-used motto, “To Protect and Serve.” But in a day in which there’s no longer any such thing as a “routine traffic stop,” the actions of those officers of the law are challenged, recorded, scrutinized, publicized, and criticized - sometimes rightly, and sometimes not. Another of my long-held assumptions is eroding away.
I want to trust them, all of them, every time I see and am near an officer of the law. A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon in late July, we gathered around some of the officers of the Poquoson Police Department, and their chief, and their families, and we laid hands on them, and prayed for them... that they might have courage to face the unknowns of every day, every hour, and even every step and turn of their shifts. But we also prayed that they might have wisdom for the exercise of their responsibilities, and that we, the citizenry, might afford them the respect and honor to which they are entitled as public servants and officials. We pinned red ribbons on our shirt lapels, and on theirs, too, as a reminder of the common, red blood we share with them, and of our common humanity and fragile life-quality.
It is painful for me to hear the words of someone whose trust has been betrayed, someone who has lost something/someone important, or someone whose world has been darkened by fear and anger and loss of hope, saying that they “don’t know who to trust anymore... and whose words to believe.” Trust broken is difficult to rebuild; but not impossible. It doesn’t happen immediately with the twitching of a nose or a hearty handshake or a word well-spoken. It doesn’t happen “just because” we wish it were so. Trust is only rebuilt on a foundation of trust-worthiness, and that only happens over the course of an extended period of time in shared experiences that are mutually beneficial and build up both wounded parties. Several years ago, Gary Chapman (he of the 5 Love Languages fame) noted that there are several “R’s” involved in reconciliation: Regret, Remorse, Restitution, and Release. It’s the last one that’s crucial: releasing the wound, the past, the insult, the pain that has been festering in the heart is hard work! It means letting go of the fearful hesitancy that the knife may come again, and that the fire may again be applied, and that the wounds may be reopened. It’s risky. But it’s crucial to hope.
We people of Christian faith are, shall we say, believers in forgiveness and reconciliation! When we’ve given out the worst treatment available to the love of God Incarnate in our midst, the divine response is constant: “I will not fail you; I will not forsake you. Nothing can come between us. Even in the worst of life, I am with you.” When the One most profoundly offended offers reconciliation, it then sets before us the opportunity and motivation to offer the same to others, to expose ourselves again and again to injustice and pain and suffering - not to prove how strong we are, but how powerful our God’s love is, even in our brokenness.
Friends in the household of faith, let me use these few lines to commend to your love and prayers and tangible expressions of grace, all those whose blood runs red in these days; all those whose pain and grief is so profound; all those charged with responsibilities to “keep the peace;” and all those who would bind up the wounds, forgiving those who inflicted them. Pray in the words of the Old Testament prophet Micah, that, from the greatest to the least of us, we might all “love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with [our] God.” (Micah 6:8b)
Grace to you... and especially, His peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor
PS - Responses? Send to my e-address: RevsRUs@Cox.net Thanks.