the Spirit

Last night, I made blueberry pancakes for supper. Our daughter, age 3, loves them, and we all sat down and ate together – well, the baby had his own food – but you get the idea. A family sitting together having dinner.

After we ate, we were cleaning up, and our daughter went to get her swimsuit on so she could play with “the spriink-u-lar” (translation: “sprinkler”).

I turned on the world news to see an update on the latest from the humanitarian crisis unfolding at our southern border. I wasn’t prepared. They played the recording of a girl crying for her aunt, other children heard weeping and calling for their parents in the background. I looked to see our daughter had come into the room.

“That little girl and that little boy, they are crying. Why are they crying?” she looked at me, head turned with a concerned look on her face.

I swallowed hard. “Because the government separated them from their moms and dads. They want their moms and dads, but they are being kept apart. It’s really sad honey, and it’s wrong.”

She went on to finish getting ready to go outside. I stayed and saw the news correspondent ask a white middle aged man if he was affected by the sights and sounds of children crying for their parents. He said he wasn’t, and proceeded to talk about money.

I had to walk away. As I walked back to the kitchen to do the dishes, something happened.

Like a wild animal that has been let out of a cage, with a quiet and powerful fury, words came flying out of my mouth under my breath. I got to the kitchen and looked at my wife and our 10 month old son. I told her what the man said and said the same words of fury again, this time at normal volume. Then,

I broke as I said, “why?”

Tears shot out of my eyes. My arms tensed up and I cried in a way I never have before. Not just any cry.

I rage cried.

It wasn’t sadness, frustration, or hopelessness, or fear.

It was rage. Strong, breathtaking, rage.

I wondered aloud, “What the hell is wrong with people?” and “what are we going to do?” I took deep breaths and tried to focus on washing dishes and just doing something with my hands.”

A few minutes later, D took our daughter out and got the sprinkler going. She had to come in for a minute, so I stepped outside to the back porch and watched our daughter. She put her hands in the sprinkler and squealed, then jumped through, squealing and running away, smiling. I laughed and felt my chest ease slightly. D was coming back, laughing with me, then I watched a moment more before going back inside to finish up and get our son.

We all went outside, and we sat and watched our rambunctious three year old play with delight and abandon. I held our son and watched the water, taking in the sight of the golden summer evening sky, the feel of the cool in the shade, and the sounds of tree frogs and the chorus of night-time insects beginning to announce that evening was near.

We went back inside, and we got the kids ready for bed. As I lay next to my daughter to read a bedtime story and then as she fell asleep, I felt the pain again, thinking of those separated families, praying silently for them.

Later, I sat with my wife, and we talked more about how we were feeling. I again told her how hard this was and how much rage I was feeling. We watched comedies and tried our best to relax before going to bed.

In the watches of the night, I woke up, my mind turning again to the sounds of those babies. And the sight and sound of that man, hateful/unmoved/empty of compassion and decency.

I looked into the darkness and thought, “What is wrong with people? How can you be like that? Why are so many people ok with this and trying to justify it?”

Then, I thought: “The Spirit is gone.” Which certainly seems true. The fruit of the Spirit is love – joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.

Then I wondered. “Where is God? What if God is dead?

Then, a song I learned when I was a small child came to mind and seemed to well up within me even though it had long been forgotten.

“God’s not dead. No, God’s alive. God’s not dead. No, God’s alive.”

Then, as I remembered more of the song, I realized some important truths.

“I can feel God in my hands”  – when I use them to serve the most vulnerable and the hurting.

“I can feel God in my feet” – when I pray with my feet by marching for justice and equity and let my feet carry me to the places I am needed.

“I can feel God in the Church”- when the Church boldly fights for love.

“I can feel God in the air” – when I make environmentally sound decisions and also when I stop and mindfully observe the gift that is nature,

“I can feel God everywhere. I can feel God all over me.” – when I practice love – joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, the Spirit is with me, all over me, and working through me.

I fell back asleep, thinking on these things. When I woke up this morning, I saw the news and watched video of a beautiful unarmed young 17 year old black boy be shot in the back, killed by a police officer who had been on the job for 3 hours.

The rage welled up in me again. My three year old daughter walked in, and seeing his mother crying asked me- “why is she crying?”

“Honey, she’s crying because ( I felt my throat swelling) because… Because her son was shot. He died. She’s sad. It’s very very sad, and it’s not right.” I knew that at three years old, she can’t understand too much – she doesn’t even fully “get” death yet. But I realized I will have to talk with her more and more as she ages, and talk with our son as he gets older, so they can know and understand.

I said aloud something I knew needed to be said. “We have to do more. If there is anything I am feeling right now, it’s that we have to do more.”

Later this morning, I was getting ready and alone to my thoughts again. I thought about all that is going on and all that has happened in the past few years that have moved me. And I came to some conclusions.

I repent.

I repent for my armchair activism, feeling that I’m doing more than I actually am. I recommit to working on the ground and actually doing more while still writing/calling/posting to help educate/inspire/motivate change.

I repent.

I repent for my own ignorance, sometimes willful, sometimes not – and I recommit to educating myself on the truth and how to help.

I repent.

I repent for recognizing my privilege as a white woman while holding so tightly to my disadvantage as an LGBTQ+ person, that I have failed to use my privilege as an ally for folks of color. I recommit to dismantling systems of oppression for all. 

I am a work in progress. And I am waking up.

I find that I am overcome with so many emotions these days, and I feel weary at times, like the fire of rage and compassion will burn me out – and I cannot let that happen. So here is what I am learning.

I let the rage wash over me, and it put me in touch with fighting for justice.

Also, I let the love I have for my partner and kids wash over me – and I took note of the little things, and I felt stronger for it.

I am reconnecting with my spirituality, I am writing, and I am painting again. All healing activities for me.

I’ve disconnected in some of the places and relationships where I need to disconnect.

And last, but not least, I am being mindful. I am noticing when I need to walk away for a moment, when I need to fight and when I don’t. I know when I can’t change a mind, and I need to be more aware of and accepting of hat and move on. I am mindful of the taste of coffee, the scent of rain, and the sounds of thunder rumbling in the distance. I am observant of the colors in the sunrise and the way the light plays across the landscape.

We have to keep fighting. We can’t burn out.

Good boundaries. Focusing on the people we love and what we love about them. Using mindfulness and gratitude. Empowering ourselves with love and light.

Will you join me?

Love wins.

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