Renew now our vision
of who you created us to be,
and what you call us to do,
of wild goodness and disruptive faithfulness,
of cheeky risks for justice,
of hearty inclusion of the rejected,
of death-defying insistence that are enough
riches of bread, of things and truth and beauty,
more than enough of the riches of grace and you,
for us all to gladly share and live in peace.
Excerpted from My heart in My Mouth: Prayers for Our Lives
I wrote earlier that there are few certainties in life and that words can't do much to change that, intently as we try to force them to and intensely as we wish they could. But words can do something more crucial. They can help us "renew ... our vision of what (God) created us to be and ... calls us to do." Such words often begin in prayers when they emerge out of silence in the presence of life's mysteries and out of the depths our own reflection. Words also do that if and when they challenge unjust and dehumanizing situations in life. Not to respond out of our depths and lift a voice against those situations is to miss the point of who we are created to be.
It was Thomas Carlyle who said, "Speech is silver, Silence is golden." My friend, Robert Raines, used to say, "Sometimes silence is golden, but sometimes it's just yellow" - an old word meaning cowardly. Most of us have felt the shrivel of our "yellow" moments, haven't we? We may have tried to justify our cowardice, explain it with arguments about a "good" reason for not taking the risk of speaking against the injustice or cruelty being done. "What good would it have done?" we insist; "What would be the point of it?" Exactly the right question . What would be the point? Who knows whether it would have made a difference to anyone else or stopped an injustice at that moment? But it may have made something different at least possible and that small a chance would itself be enough. And it would make a difference to you if you'd raised your voice rather than chosen the yellow, shrivel of silence. You might have felt, at least momentarily, the exhilaration of being aware of who you were created to be and to do.
Elie Wiesel, who emerged from the Holocaust as a holy and prophetic voice, said, "Words are deeds." I haven't plumbed the depths of all he means by that but I have experienced some of the truth of it. Words can lead to severely damaged psyches, impoverished relationship, broken families, holocausts, terrorizing, brutalizing people because of their race, religion, gender, nationality, destroying communities, exploiting and ravishing the planet.
And yet, even more crucially, words can lead to healing, creating beauty and truth, embracing the forgotten and downtrodden, oppressed and ridiculed, reconciling enemies, summoning justice, nudging nations toward peace because words can lift a vision, make a witness, become an opening for more deeds. more hope, more compassion and a little more of who we're created to be and do. And that is to be a community in which all human beings, all creatures, are a cherished part and the "me first" mentality of private pursuits and personal privilege does not keep tearing us apart.
So what does this have to do with issues like personal integrity, intimate relations, family life as well as health care reform, or climate change, or renewable energy, or nuclear disarmament, or reducing poverty, or saving kids from curable diseases or ....
Well, isn't that the point we have to decide? Who are we?
Think about it. Ted