Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rivers in the Wasteland

"See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers" (Isaiah 43:19).

The last two months could adequately be described as a wasteland. The shuttering of our world, countless deaths, physical and social distancing and isolation, fear, anxiety, impatience, unemployment, confusion.

Add on the events that transpired across America last week and wasteland seems even more appropriate than before.

Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual graduations, delayed or private weddings, funeral-less deaths, on-line school, cancellation of athletic seasons, electronic church gatherings, the politicization of the responses to the outbreak, and countless eye-blurring and headache inducing Zoom meetings have rocked our entire world.

A wasteland.

Now, our country is reeling from yet another killing related to the forces of systemic racism that continue to murder, crush and destroy lives, dreams, hopes, communities and the very fabric of our society.

A centuries-long pandemic of racism heaped upon a months-long pandemic of illness.

Hope seems beyond anyone's and everyone's grasp.

Just before Easter, I came across a short reflection that pondered how the apostles, after the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, had locked themselves in a room and gathered together alone and afraid. They remained there for some time, and even after the Resurrection, their re-emergence from confinement was not immediate.

Hope must have been beyond even their grasp.

Christ broke through death, conquered it, crashed into their despair, erased it, and ushered in new life.

The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, re-entered the world, and changed it.

When I first read that reflection, during the end of Holy Week and near the beginning of this quarantine, this idea gave me hope. We were huddled with those closest to us yet separated and distanced from the rest of the world. We were and still are afraid, confused and anxious. Our reality mirrored that of the apostles.

As I continue to reflect on coming out of isolation, especially in light of how even more broken and hurting our country is now than it was even just one week earlier, I trust that somehow, someway God is creating a river in this wasteland, a way in the wilderness. He is breaking through, crashing in, and creating something new.

That river is me. That new way is you. Together, we must be something new.

And together, we can and must change the world anew.    

Let's be rivers in this wasteland. Let's be ways in the wilderness. 

Let's be better together.  

This doesn't mean that being wellsprings of this new life will be easy. Rivers in the wasteland can easily run dry, become drained out, get polluted or even dammed (pun intended). Ways in the wilderness will necessitate tripping over roots, cleaning away overgrown brush, encountering wildlife and other dangers, and searching and wandering through darkness and without a clear way forward or end in sight. 

Simply: it will not be easy. Dismantling centuries old systems and structure of racism won't crumble without extreme efforts and a whole bunch of mess, rubble, and destruction. Tearing down our own biases and ingrained ways of perceiving and interacting with the world will won't happen without discomfort, regret, shame and reconciliation (go here and explore your own implicit associations:

Then, we must rebuild... 

But, we can and must do hard things, uncomfortable things, unpleasant things. We weren't made for comfort. We weren't created for an easy life. 

We - all of us - were made for great things, for goodness.

We can and must be better.