“And all the weight that brings you to your knees…..He knows.”
All the bitter weary ways
Endless striving day by day
You barely have the strength to pray
In the valley low
And how hard your fight has been
How deep the pain within
Wounds that no one else has seen
Hurts too much to show
And all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees
He knows, He knows
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
He knows, He knows
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the One who knows
We may faint and we may sink
Feel the pain and near the brink
But the dark begins to shrink
When you find the One who knows
The chains of doubt that held you in between
One by one are starting to break free
Every time that you feel forsaken
Every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
Only you, Lord, know the depth of our suffering and pain. Loss of friends, health issues, insecurities, fears, self-doubt, depression bring us into the deepest valley with seemingly no escape. But, You know us, You know our pains and You have the words that heal us. You never abandon us even in the darkest times. Hallelujah!
I shared recently with a friend that my life sometimes seems to be driven by a need to stand ready and armed in the attack mode. So many happenings in our world, so many leaders, and so many “experts” could benefit immensely by a few words of advice and castigation from me, the great I am, the final word of wisdom on anything from negotiating with North Korea to relief for the poverty-stricken of the world. I know all; I have the answers and I am going to let you know what they are.
With that frame of mind being on the offensive, some of the people I encounter immediately assume a response of counter-attack and, by golly, the fight of the century is happening amongst the pots and pans hanging in my kitchen. Words for fighting and weapons hanging from the cupboards were the last thing on my mind when I offered my expertise on problems within our government. But, words were shared, pans did fly and the least of my worries became the antics of an infantile President. Duck!! here comes Grandma’s favorite 9″ cast iron fry pan.
Fear and insecurity often drive pride into my world. That pride, if left unchecked, will take me to places I truly don’t need to go, to places best left to those who are willing to suffer the consequences of voicing opinions about political corruption and ineptitude. Although, in the words of Elie Wiesel, neutrality is not an option in issues of social injustice, maintaining neutrality in a political discussion with neighbors is often an action of pure wisdom. I would do best to save my fight for issues that bring me to a state of weeping and compassion for oppressed and suffering brothers and sisters. Political structures are a dime-a-dozen, they come and go just as the seasons of the year pass without fail. But, the suffering and oppressed are always with us, always needing an advocate. No, I don’t suffer from a savior complex. I simply must anticipate always the scenario which Jeremy Camp sings about…..there will be a day.
“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”
“On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot eight out of ten girls, killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse. The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.”
Eleven years ago while taking a break from driving, sitting at a Midwest truck-stop, watching TV on my satellite connection, this breaking news story darkened my soul like nothing else in recent memory. As a young boy I had attended public school with Amish boys and girls, I lived in communities where the clop-clop of Amish buggies passing by was a normal everyday occurrence, my family shopped at the grocery store with Amish families. Their way of life was fascinating to me. How could they follow such a simple lifestyle eschewing modern conveniences and still be the happiest people I knew? I greatly envied their humility and dedication to the community of believers which they chose to follow.
Even today as I write this, my eyes well up with tears. Innocent schoolgirls gunned down execution style by a madman. On October 2, 2006 I cried like a baby for several hours. My driving partner could not console me, my prayers would not stop the tears, the God of my understanding had deserted me. Five killed. Others injured. The young boys who had been herded outside stood by helplessly as their schoolmates inside screamed while shot after shot was fired.
“For the sake of Christ, my God, they were children! Why?” That’s all my mind could process until later in the day when the news reported a statement from the Amish elders of that community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, “We forgive the gunman.”
Oh my God! These simple, peace-loving men and women, having suffered the most horrific of crimes perpetrated against them, immediately turn a most hateful act of violence against innocent children into an opportunity to show the world what Jesus expected of them. “Forgive him, Father, for he did not know what he was doing.”
Could I have forgiven? If my little girl was one of those standing in front of the blackboard with her back to the gunman waiting for her turn to be murdered, could I forgive? Even today, eleven years later, I don’t know that I could answer that question honestly. I know what Jesus said, I know what the teachings are, but I am still a man who sometimes feeds on justified anger. Perhaps I am the one who needs forgiveness.
That day and the days following were a time of continual mourning. More tears, more questions, less confidence that American society would ever turn from violent rhetoric and behavior. In time the tears did indeed wash away the sorrow. A brighter day appeared.
Those who mourn, including me, realize that mourning is another day in the seasons of life just as pain, depression, illness, disappointment, and inadequacy. Life is an inescapable mingling of sorrow and joy. Without the times of sorrow we would not recognize joy. Without the sorrow we would not seek the blessing of a Comforter.
“Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
“Jesus describes those who grieve as feeling the pain of the world.”
“Saint Ephrem said, ‘Until you have cried, you do not know God.'”
Jeremy Camp released a video and recording encouraging us to endure the pain and sorrow for there will be a day…….
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4
“Living nonviolence requires daily meditation, contemplation, study, concentration, and mindfulness. Just as mindlessness leads to violence, steady mindfulness and conscious awareness of our true identities lead to nonviolence and peace. The deeper we go into mindful nonviolence, the more we live the truth of our identity as sisters and brothers of one another, and sons and daughters of the God of peace. The social, economic, and political implications of this practice are astounding: if we are sons and daughters of a loving Creator, then every human being is our sister and brother, and we can never hurt anyone on earth ever again, much less be silent in the face of war, starvation, racism, sexism, nuclear weapons, systemic injustice, and environmental destruction.” cac.org
John Dear, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press: 2013), 15-17. Note that Pace e Bene and John Dear are leading a Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions, September 16-24. Learn more at paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/ .