Flags are waving in the breeze as people begin preparing for 4th of July celebrations. Are they a reminder of the past struggles against limitations? Are they honoring our freedom?
This year I sense these flags are expressing the sorrow of our people. Like many Americans, my heart is heavy from the recent shootings and the seemingly never-ending stories of violence. Feelings of anger, frustration, uncertainty, and vulnerability have surfaced all across the country. People ask “Why?” They want someone to blame and someone to be punished. And, many want to do something.
Consider a contemplative response to these acts of violence. I believe the Divine is inviting each of us to be instruments of grace in the midst of such pain and suffering. There is pain in a 21 year old man who felt the only way to express the depth of his agony was through violence. There is pain in the Emmanuel Church community who lost their beloved Pastor. There is pain for the family and friends of all nine of the people who died from this violence. We need to be present to all of it, and behold the faces of those who cry out in pain.
There is a Spirit, a Breath, a Wind blowing over our land. It whispers to us to take care of ourselves and each other. The violence we hear or read about can be opportunities to be different rather than indifferent. This Spirit invites us to embrace—not hide from—the pain in our country and our world. We need to hear the cry of the poor, the abused, and the downtrodden, and cry out on their behalf.
As intellectual people, we often try to make sense of violent acts by labeling the perpetrators as mentally ill. Quite frankly, I suggest ‘heartbroken’ is a better description. Not knowing what to do with the pain, more people are ‘snapping’ and lashing out at others in extreme ways.
In 1776 we proclaimed our independence from the British. But we have been at war with ourselves ever since. We seem to need to fight against something or someone. We need to be right, so someone must be wrong. We feel a need to protect our property, our families and ourselves from the unknown because we don’t trust. In our independence we have lost our sense of inter-dependence.
Many of us have lost our sense of connection with one another. We have forgotten how to listen with a sense of the Sacred within the other. It’s time to awaken from the sleep of indifference or of disconnection and acknowledge the underlying racial, economic and cultural issues contributing to the tension.
What the world needs now more than anything is love. It needs a compassionate heart that beats with tenderness and mercy. It needs a forgiving heart that knows no one can throw stones of judgment or self-righteousness. It needs a mystical heart that beholds the Divine in our world and can be transformed by that vision.
Despite our brokenness, all of the shootings have awakened our sense of connection. We glimpse a community coming together for the sake of one another. We see different police departments in the cities across America beginning to review their policies. We see people beginning to look at one another, thank each other and hold and share hope for one another.
In whatever way you remember the Declaration of Independence this 4th of July, it can be different because the events this year have awakened your compassionate heart. May it be so for everyone!