Friday, February 13, 2009

Testing, Testing: Howling is a Given

One of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn as a pastor is that people will not only not like me, but may hate me when I follow what I believe Christ is calling me to do. We in the pastor's union too often have all the backbone of a chocolate eclair, as Teddy Roosevelt once put it.

There are a couple of things to clarify about yesterday's post: one person said, "I do not agree with your conclusions" because that person stands in the "other camp." I am not drawing conclusions; I am walking out into no-man's land. You can doubt my motives-- but you cannot doubt my action. I am seeking a means to move forward, and stepping out to a place in the middle where I can stand. All I am asking is to see if you can step out to where you can stand, and if we can reach each other across that distance.

This is not a fix-- it is not a resolution. It is a means to go forward together. Resolution may not come for generations, just as it will not come quickly or easily across the scarred divisions of race in our country. Someone's got to begin the healing process. It is the task of our time to begin-- my children's children may have the joy of seeing the conclusion, whatever God will ordain that to be.

Another person said, "but the shouters will keep shouting, the litigators keep litigating..." Yes, yes. This work must be begun in the midst of much verbal violence. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last.

My hero is Connie, and all those like her who were willing at 8 years old to walk through a wall of hate to find a new future for themselves. In his book, "The Spiritual Life of Children," Robert Coles lets her tell her story: "I was all alone, and those [segregationist] people were screaming, and suddenly I saw God smiling and I smiled. A woman was standing there [near the school door] and she shouted at me, 'HEY you little nigger, what you smiling at?' I looked right at her face and I said, 'at God.' Then she looked up at the sky, and then she looked at me, and she didn't call me any more names."

Both sides have their yellers-- both sides have their names to call each other. There are segregationists of left and right in this conflict-- those who want to impose their way on the whole. I'm going to walk down the middle toward the future that the Lord has in store for us-- finding that future is the only thing that will make God smile. All I'm looking for is someone who can step toward me close enough that we can hold hands and walk the gauntlet together. Any takers?

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