This past month has seen profound heartache––in our own neighborhoods and in those worlds away. As I've been pulled back into the rhythms of school, it's been hard to know how to engage, what my role is in such tragedy. Several times over these past weeks, I've found myself writing and tracing the words "Nepal," "Baltimore," and the specific names of others in my world who are battling towards life––it has become its own sort of prayerful, palimpsest-like practice. When words seem less than adequate, I hope that presence and mindfulness can serve some sort of purpose.
There was an article posted to "On Faith" a couple weeks ago, a collection of voices on what to learn from the situation in Baltimore. This voice, in particular, has stuck with me:
"What is the call for people of faith when they are faced with the aftermath of a riot they may have helped create due to neglect or ignorance wrapped in arrogance? What do all riots have in common?
They are the phonetic and kinetic sounds and rhythms of the unheard."
(Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Trinity Church, Chicago)
With that in mind, it seems like we had better listen much, much better.
And this has made me wonder how well I have sought to listen to the unheard among us.
At the end of last term, I was meeting with one of my faculty. We were talking about race, intercultural competency, and asking hard questions of ourselves. At the end of our conversation, I was frustrated by not knowing where to go from here, as a student in a community of those privileged enough to go to graduate school. I asked him what my task was. He said, if there was a task, maybe it was something like Ezekiel's. In the Old Testament, a man named Ezekiel is called to be a prophet. The poor guy is commissioned to go to his own people––the nation of Israel, a people who will not listen, a rebellious nation.
The beautiful thing about this narrative is that God recognizes this is an impossible task. He says to the deeply distressed Ezekiel, "But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people." You see, the Maker of the Universe does not send Ezekiel to these hard-hearted people without first equipping him with a hard forehead. Nevertheless, God sends Ezekiel to speak to the nation of Israel, whether they listen or fail to listen.
If there is a task, maybe this is it.
And with the words of Rev. Dr. Otis Moss ringing, I wonder if we can afford to "fail to listen" any longer. The beauty of a prayerful, mindful, listening posture is that we don't have to get it together before we show up. We can take a hopeful chance that history does not have to repeat itself. My hope is that the things we face are greater and more important than the things we refuse to face.