Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chain of Hearts

"I know you're sad. I'm so so sorry."
These were the words my mother said to me the moment stepped into her home after I'd finished my drive from St. Louis city to Illinois the morning of Tuesday, November 26th.

After a night of unrest and protesting in my neighborhood, I decided to leave early for Thanksgiving. "Leaving early for Thanksgiving" was the rationale I applied, but it did not help me lessen the feeling I'd relinquished something dearly loved without any opposition. It didn't undo the label I earned and given myself, coward.

The words would not come then; they barely come now.

If my heart were to break, I would not be surprised to find a rusted box of tangled chains within. I can feel them: heavy, tarnished and cold chafing together inside me. I can taste the bitter metal in my mouth, I can feel the corrosion on my fingers. These are the chains, twisted into a grotesque Gordian knot, that I wish I could undo. Let me name them:

This one is fear.

This one is anger.

This one is shame.

This one is helplessness.

This one is love.

This one is hope.

This chain is fear.
This is the fear that drove me to Illinois. Not the fear of white. Not the fear of black. Not the fear of law, enforced or broken. I feared the fear of what one fear-filled person can do. Then another. Then another. For fear grows like a disease and anyone can catch it.

This chain is anger.
Searching #Ferguson on Twitter to see if I was safe or not in my home, I saw cold, bald, distilled hatred. Hatred I had never seen before. My stomach lurched. Like a reflex, I suppose it tried to purge the poison I'd read. But it was too late. No retching can unsee the wretched hatred I beheld there.

This chain is shame.
How can a man or woman hate another? How can any one race hate another? How was I so blind? How could I so naively trust that others see what I do--the image of the Almighty? How can I ask someone to trust my fair skin if there's is different? How can I ask that now?

This chain is helplessness.
Lord just--
Lord, just--
My prayers, so charred and brittle, they break off and fall silent for the Spirit to interpret.

This chain is love.
I cannot fix what I do not feel. I cannot find what I do not see. I love. Help me to love more. Help me to love honestly and boldly. Help me to learn of Your perfect love and teach it and learn it again when I forget. I am so forgetful.

This chain is hope.
These are the magic words my dearly loved student taught me to say.

Her: I'm sorry Miss Martin.
Me: It's ok.
Her: I'm sorry Miss Martin.
Me: I heard you sweetie. It's ok.
Her: (Starting to weep) I said I'm sorry Miss Martin.
Me: Hey...shhhh. It's okay...I'm not angry...I...I forgive you.
Her: Okay. 

It took me far too long to learn to extend this forever forgiveness.

Me: I'm sorry.
Her: It's okay Miss Martin. I still forgive you.

I still forgive you.
I still forgive you.
I still forgive you.

The words of our children. The words of our Savior. The words that He will speak to un-knot the
chains of my heart and then beat them into crown.

Come Lord Jesus and heal our world. Heal my city. It groans for you.