“Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
Romans 12: 9 – 21
Great heaviness of heart is hard to escape some days. Edginess in conversations; great differences in interpretation of events around me feel unsettling and disturbing. Sometimes it feels that there are two realities. I remember when first studying post-modern culture that one of the characteristics of the new era would be that truth was no longer absolute. I wondered what that meant at the time; now we are living it in real time.
When I read the Romans text, which was the lectionary text for last week, it struck me that I need a little more of this kind of being in the world and a little less of all that is weighing me down. I am not helpless and I have nothing to fear. I am called to seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. I am generally not a confrontational person. I don’t like conflict and will back down in great mea culpa most of the time. I don’t feel like doing that now.
Last night we hosted five college students, our granddaughter and four of her Tar Heel Voices friends. It was a glorious, uplifting night. Spaghetti and song go a long way to bring joy into a room. The UNC students talked about their school year and their hopes for moving forward. They talked about life and the way of the world. They recognize that they will be responsible for carrying forth a mantle of truth, goodness and joy into the world. It was a most restorative evening for Tom and me.
I am tired of being sick and tired of the way some things are being lived out and spoken into. I am tired of tirades by the left and the right on the radio and television. I hope for a steady middle ground on which to stand. I also have realized even more that I need time for quiet reflection and prayer. Prayer. Prayer. And more prayer. It’s the only way I can find peace in the storm.
Paul gives such good instruction for living in turmoil. This. This way of being in the world seems so simple, yet it calls for much intention to live in truth and authenticity, joy and mutual affection. From Rush to Rachel to Romans there is such difference. But I choose Romans as a way to return to civility and abundant life. When we lose civility in our daily discourse, does civilization even stand a chance? When truth is malleable, when dismissal of science and research and contortion of facts become normalized, could we be headed into another Dark Age?
My prayer going home last week was born out of the heavy heart seeking renewal. I share it with you in all its rawness:
O God, a heavy heart will not raise the world. A fearful heart will back away in silence and reticence. Quiet sometimes is not restorative; it is only escape. O God, renew my faith that all things work together for good, and that your power is still all encompassing. Renew my hope in a world filled with hopelessness, ugly rhetoric, division, and degradation of the values that have made of us a great people. Create a new heart in me, one that knows your peace and graciousness. Fill me so full of You that it pours out of me in every word and every gesture. Let me be gentle in the world, slow, thoughtful, fearless. Faith and hope that we as Americans can indeed build a more perfect union, faith and hope that we can live the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven are my prayer. Only You can save us from the out of control ego and the anger born of un-knowing. Be present in powerful ways and unexpected turns. Lead me, Lord; lead me in your righteousness. Amen.