Friday, June 19, 2015
I had a dear, dear co-worker once that complimented my handicap beautifully. I shared with her that I could only SEE the FOREST, she declared she could only SEE the LEAVES. We worked together fabulously. She took care of the details of the project and I spent time on the vision. It was a match made in heaven. Our time together was nothing but a well-oiled machine of productivity!
Because of the horrible murder of nine beautiful folks in Charleston, SC this week I'm finding myself in a daze, bumping into walls, and tripping over my feet as I try to see the big picture and process this heartbreaking event. An insane, drug addicted, racist, hateful young man committed a terrible murderous act. He's in jail and will be held accountable and his motives and actions will be studied by experts for a long time. Answers may or may not be found.
Charleston and the nation and I are reeling. There are SO many questions and confusion. Conclusions and resolves will be made for the future.
I want to write about the BIG picture that I see happening NOW.
I'm seeing something totally different than what we all witnessed just a few weeks ago in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. And right or wrong, my brain is making a comparison.
Charleston is a beautiful city, steeped in history, beauty and spirituality. Many OLD, beautiful and revered churches can be spotted on the city tour. If you live in or move to Savannah, the first question you will be asked is, "Who is your family?" If you live in or move to Charleston, the first question you will need to answer is, "Where do you go to church?" Every southerner knows this about these two cities!
Charleston Southern Culture demands church attendance, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any other time of the week when the doors are open. Church membership and attendance are as necessary as breathing! It's a given. One reporter on the scene this week declared that having lived there she could attest to the fact that, when growing up "it didn't matter what you did on Sat. night, on SUNDAY morning you were in church."
EVERYONE goes to their choice of church, temple, mosque, or synagogue. And it is there that deep relationships are made through the years. Ministers, priests, rabbi's, bishops and brothers have baptized, confirmed, married, and buried whole families. History, tradition and stability are found within those walls.
It doesn't surprise me, but evidently it is surprising our nation, that when tragedy occurs the people of Charleston run to their churches. Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Methodists and Church of Christ folks ALL ran to comfort their "sisters and brothers" of the AME church where 9 members of their "family" were gunned down. I can only imagine the flowers, casseroles, hugs and tears that were shared. The color of their skin, the amount in their bank accounts, where their church membership was, or the name of their granddaddy did not keep them away. We are watching the "church united." You know, "red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."
These folks are the real deal. They KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that this week they are on this earth to "mourn with those who mourn." They are praying, weeping, and hugging together!
Are they perfect? Is Charleston a Christian Utopia? Absolutely not! They're all sinners just like the rest of us. They've just lived their faith together for a long time in the humdrums of life and are comfortable to call upon it when crisis hits. Those folks are going to rise above the hatred that took their friends lives. They are going to love each other into strength and future purpose. They are broken right now, but they will heal.
So....why didn't we see that response in Ferguson or Baltimore? (I'm positive it DID take place on a smaller scale by some and the media just didn't report it! Racial slurs, looting, burning and hatred made the headlines.)
Here comes my speculation.
Church IS critically important in Charleston, both kinds: the "big C" involving believers everywhere and the "little C," the local congregation. When nothing makes sense, God is our only hope. His plan to reveal Himself today is through the church, whether we like it or not, in spite of it's failings and struggles. It is there children and adults are taught the truth of God, where He is honored,and where great theology is infused through music and liturgy.
The church is the great equalizer. Somehow, by some miracle of God's grace the people of Charleston "got it." They're not going to burn down businesses, overturn cars or shoot at policemen even though racism was no doubt the cause of all the pain.
I'm reminded of the reaction of the Amish community a few years back when their precious little girls were murdered in their school house. The nation was in a panic, and those parents and friends quietly grieved with supernatural dignity and then bulldozed the school in the wee hours of the night. One parent visited the family of the murderer to make sure they knew they were forgiven. How did they do that?
They relied on God and leaned upon each other, helping each other cry, helping each other put one foot in front of the other. We were all amazed. They could do that because they'd spent hours getting to know Him obeying Him, loving Him during the peaceful times of life, when their hearts were NOT breaking. Running to Him was a natural response....just like breathing.
Little girls murdered, church members killed at their prayer meeting? Is it fair? Absolutely NOT?
It is horrendous and grievous. And Jesus said, "in this world, you will have trouble. But fear not, for I have overcome the world."
Should we attempt to help the mentally ill, work at dispelling racism, review gun laws? Absolutely, in any and every way possible.
BUT...when trouble comes....AND IT WILL....IN FACT IT IS PROMISED.....
I know where I'll be, surrounded by friends and family that know God and that know me, warts and all. We'll find strength together, just like those hurting folks in Charleston are doing today.
Without intending to and with no motive, The "big C" Church of Charleston is modeling for the nation a Godly, peaceful, loving, grace-filled response to unspeakable pain.
I'm hoping many will see it.