I admit that I have fallen, like so many others, into silence’s trap.
As the clock ticked closer to 6:30pm yesterday, I found myself resigning to staying home, confirming what I had known all along: I wouldn’t actually show up.
There was a community prayer vigil at City Hall last night, to condemn not only the violence and hatred spewing themselves across our country, but to also offer a response—to come together in a tangible way and say no, this is not right, and we grieve; we pause. we pray.
And I didn’t go. I was nervous. I thought I’d be alone with Mack out of town, even though I knew our church community would be represented. I was afraid of violence revealing itself at yes, even a prayer gathering. I was anxious that the emotions it would ignite in me would make it impossible to go back to an empty apartment.
This is the thing, too; this fear and paralyzing grief have prevented me from showing up, from responding in a way that would offer the hope I so desperately desire. I am not proud of this. I am not proud of this at all.
As social media has been exploding, I’ve been consuming (obsessively, unhelpfully) the stories, reactions, and responses of those in and outside my networks. I want to say that most of the time, I encounter sensitivity and a willingness to mourn alongside those who mourn. Instead, though, I’m blasted by debates between strangers, comments of profound distrusts, and moments of outright carelessness.
It is debilitating, and tightens the rope around my ankle, which has me swinging upside down and side to side, wondering if I will ever be free; wondering if silence has once again got me, and got me good.
I become so unsure of how to respond, how to stomach yet another story that reveals the worst parts of this life. Each time violence like this happens, I absorb its weight so fully. I’m a sponge that has gone from sitting on the counter, unused and shrunk, dried out and porous, into a heavy, sopping mess of reawakened senses. And although I would love for that reawakening to remind me the job is not done. there is still work to do. keep scrubbing. it reminds me instead of how tired I am, how expected this has become, how incapable I feel of knowing not just how to respond, but how to respond well.
But it’s at the point, I know, where remaining silent is part of the problem. Continuing on without pause, without lament, and without engagement, is an inappropriate response. If I am digesting as much information as I have been, and only holding that grief to myself, not participating in the redemptive acts that I am called to, I am responding inappropriately. I am allowing the paralysis to continue by refusing to join those who are actively running towards hope, reconciliation, and peace. I am choosing to remain barricaded in my apartment, believing the lie that staying inside is safer than walking out.
In our church service yesterday morning, our pastor made space to lament the loss of lives this week. She said each person by name, declaring their humanity and denouncing their violent deaths, as the church corporately pleaded come lord jesus, come. Her message was poignant, empathetic, and specific. She reminded us that as the people of God, we are about peace, we are about healing, and we are about coming alongside the hurting. This is who we are. The recognition she ushered into our building for that hour and a half felt so graciously and tangibly like the kingdom of God breaking into the now, reminding us of our identities and our hope, our responsibilities to be present. And then she invited us to join the city for prayer that night, and I felt so stirred as I envisioned it, so aware this was the participation I was craving. But again—I didn’t go. As the posts filled my Facebook feed, I saw my community and congregation embodying the courage and love I couldn’t muster. I felt sad by this, knowing I had missed it, knowing I had, once again, stayed a silent observer.
More and more, Jesus is working with me through my fears. I know this is true and I know it’s a process, and that patience brings me to tears. It is time to show up. It is time to listen. It is time to embrace our communities and hear their stories. It is time to stand with the powerless and prejudiced. It is time to love with ferocity and fearlessness. Hate cannot win.