Such inspiration is a life line here. Just as in other ghettos, when a local kid does well and they find a chance to get out, they never look back. I have heard the words right out of their mouths.... Never. Ever. Coming. Back. Here. And I sit on the words that lift from my gut --words like, you know, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence --or, it's just as bad 'out there'... and the response is more like --but there is more good out there....
No, I think to myself.... It's just that the bad and the corruption is de-personalized, and by that I don't mean that the person doesn't suffer or that it's not directed at you personally, but it's that your cousin or your brother or your auntie isn't the perp's face....
Last night the police sirens raged all around the house in the neighborhood out back for a good half hour... and, yes, it was frightening... and I also wondered if I knew the faces involved. And the grief and feelings of betrayal were worse than the fear. Betrayal --perhaps the same betrayal felt by the local kids when they see the despair, corruption, dysfunction.... Why? Why, when you could choose something else? Why?
I know it's the same root, different expression, as my choosing one more piece of Halloween candy rather than not.... And I think to myself --but that's just me it hurts, not everyone else... and then I know, that's just not true --not when I believe we are all One.
The same root. As all impoverished choices. God help us.
At prayer this morning (Psalm 55)
Hear my prayer, O God; *I love the clarity and depths of the Psalms. Some acknowledging the external griefs --some acknowledging the internal corruption.... Some holding both in tension like a fine musical chord.
do not hide yourself from my petition.
Listen to me and answer me; *
I have no peace, because of my cares.
I am shaken by the noise of the enemy *
and by the pressure of the wicked;
For they have cast an evil spell upon me *
and are set against me in fury.
My heart quakes within me, *
and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling have come over me, *
and horror overwhelms me.
And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! *
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee to a far-off place *
and make my lodging in the wilderness.
I would hasten to escape *
from the stormy wind and tempest.”
Swallow them up, O Lord; confound their speech; *
for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night the watchmen make their rounds upon her walls, *
but trouble and misery are in the midst of her.
There is corruption at her heart; *
her streets are never free of oppression and deceit.
For had it been an adversary who taunted me,
then I could have borne it; *
or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me,
then I could have hidden from him.
But it was you, a man after my own heart, *
my companion, my own familiar friend.
We took sweet counsel together, *
and walked with the throng in the house of God.
Let death come upon them suddenly;
let them go down alive into the grave; *
for wickedness is in their dwellings, in their very midst.
But I will call upon God, *
and the LORD will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday,
I will complain and lament, *
and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back from the battle waged against me; *
for there are many who fight me.
God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me and bring them down; *
they never change; they do not fear God.
My companion stretched forth his hand against his comrade; *
he has broken his covenant.
His speech is softer than butter, *
but war is in his heart.
His words are smoother than oil, *
but they are drawn swords.
Cast your burden upon the LORD,
and he will sustain you; *
he will never let the righteous stumble.
For you will bring the bloodthirsty and deceitful *
down to the pit of destruction, O God.
They shall not live out half their days, *
but I will put my trust in you.
--and then I remember.... it is through/because of our brokenness --through the wounds that God is known... no, not that it takes evil or wickedness to know good and righteousness, but in our inability to do other that mercy and grace well up....
So, for right now, I will quit sticking my fingers in the bloody messes, and prepare to remember our great Passover on the morrow --packing the God box so that we may eat our Passover meal of bread and wine --foods shaped by human hands and offered to God as we actively participate in the Great Offering of our broken selves --foods enriched with memory and prayer as the Body of All --foods broken with reality, with grief, with grace and mercy, and shared that we might become what we eat --so that we may know ourselves as whole and holy.... Even if only for a fleeting moment, a restoration that can feed a lifetime.
So that we may go out and do that work we have to do --with joy --and all humility --knowing we will get it mostly wrong --knowing that we are broken.... broken but redeemed in, by, through and with love.
Some days, that's more than I can handle.