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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Love and Hate, balanced on the razor blade

He wore the blue checked gingham ubiquitous in East African school uniform shirts, a sweater and primary-school shorts and scuffed shoes, standing at the corner of my colleague's desk as we chatted in English over his 8-year-old head.  His anxious father sat perched on the edge of his chair, waiting for hope.  My calm colleague meted out a few details that made my stomach churn and heart sink.  Evil had sunk its claws into this little boy in the form of an abusive older-grade-student perpetrator of humiliating violence, and his father had come to see if the physical scars would be permanent.  Just one little life in one little school in one little town, a drop in the oceanic depths of muck in Kenya let alone Africa let alone our world.

One night earlier this week I had had vivid dreams of being outside on safari, seeing lions, and sprinting with my kids for the safety of the vehicle, watching as the lion attacked and my slow motion arms were too limp to pull the door shut in time.

Evil is real.  Just ask the mom who keeps watch while her premature baby gasps her last breaths in spite of all we can do here, her third of three to die.  We bear witness, we resist, we struggle . . and we also admit that we are not immune.  The same day I dreamed of dark lions, nature red of tooth and claw, of the prowling adversary of 1 Peter 5, I had been in self-righteous conflict by What's App half the morning, trying to juggle some needed time focused on the non-clinical demands of life during an "administrative day" with the lack of the back-up I had expected on our service.  Just when I think I'm getting the swing of being calmly cross-cultural, I sink into seeing the world from the center of my own universe and being angry when it doesn't spin my way.

Today I started a book that looks like it will be excellent, and have to share this quote:  "We are sick doctors who are trying to grasp the nature and impact of a life-threatening disease that has invaded our own souls, minds, and hearts.  Whatever this disease does to our so-called patients, it has done or can do to us.  Not only that, any contact with the disease in the lives of others can make us sicker. We do not approach our subject objectively, clear-minded, and untainted.  We approach our subject mired in, clouded by, and stained by the very thing we are attempting to study.  Let the student take note. "(Diane Langberg, Suffering and the Heart of God)

It is in this context, a sick doctor fighting sickness, prophets who call out injustice but also benefit from it and enable it, that we come to the season of nine days between celebrating the Ascension and Pentecost. God likes both 40's (days of rain on Noah, of Moses on the mountain, of years in the wilderness, of years of David's reign and Solomon's too, of days of Jesus' fast) and 49's (seven times seven years to Jubilee, weeks between Passover and the Feast of First Fruits).  And by giving Jesus a meaningful but limited 40 days after his resurrection to walk with his friends, but waiting until the Feast of First-fruits to send the promised Spirit, we get this odd nine days of waiting.

Waiting, for the Spirit.  For breath, life, judgement, protection, creativity, wisdom, leadership, fire, wind, courage, justice, miracles, truth, intercession, gifts, unity, belonging, bonding, fruit (look up "spirit" in the concordance and marvel).  Waiting for that hidden dispersion of power and transformation we need to face the evil without, and within.  Waiting, lest we think we can do this on our own.  Waiting, lest we force our own vision, our own timing.

We live now in the post-Ascension day era, where we "sing the waning darkness into light" (from Malcom Guite's sonnets, Sounding the Seasons).

Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness 
And sing the waning darkness into light;
His light in us, and our in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.

The light is coming.  Even though love and hate balance on the razor's edge of our divided souls, love will overcome.  Love can change this world in a moment, as my new favorite Ed Sheeran song testifies (the source of the title quote as well).  Once we climbed Mount Sinai, and hundreds of pilgrims sang in their own traditions as the sun rose.  The battle with evil has been won, but the darkness has not fully waned yet, and our voices matter.

(here is a later stanza in the Tennyson poem grappling with nature, death, and God's purposes)

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