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Friday, June 17, 2016

Invisible Names

"Best of all, God: you are with us" (Common Prayer).

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, this week, about all of the tragedy in the world.  It's not that unusual for me to feel this way.  It's not a weakness.  My heart just hurts when people hurt.

The last time I remember feeling precisely this way was last fall when I became acutely aware of the Syrian refugee crisis, followed by the death of a friend's mother, followed by a day in downtown Portland where I encountered scores of homeless people lying on benches in the middle of the sidewalk.  There are just some moments in which you wouldn't be human if you didn't hurt for humanity.

I haven't written here in days, but it's not because I haven't had anything to say.  It's just that there is a fine line between honoring the tragic stories of others and exploiting them for personal gain.  Honestly, I'm not even certain I can do this with any degree of integrity, today.

But as I was reading through the daily office, something struck me.  It wasn't something from the Scripture, exactly.  In fact, it was something that was intentionally left out!  My reading called for a look at Numbers 13:1-3, 21-30.  I'm not much of an expert on Numbers, but before I even turned to the passage, I knew what I would find in the verses in between.  I knew it would be a list of names.

Why do we do this?  Why do we diminish the importance of the people in order to rush ahead to the applications and implications of their narratives for our lives?  Why do we make it all about us?

I am so sorry.

In times of grief, making the pain of strangers into a political debate or flashy self-promo is never the right thing to do.  If you legitimately care about people who are mourning, it's not too hard to find them.  They are all around us.  Go mourn with them, wrap them in an embrace, be the hands and feet of Jesus to them so the words, "God is with you," don't fall so flat.  And if you don't care?  Please, close your mouth.  No one wants to hear about it.     


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