The whole wide world seems to have been stripped naked of any cloak of decency and her whole wide broken self stands battered and bruised.
So many tears streaming down faces and so many tears ripping the flesh of both the innocent and the violent.
So much blood on the pavement.
So many taking their last breath inhaling asphalt.
So many walking hollow, never to be put back to rights again.
Our world, a fractured fairy tale indeed.
The persuasive rhetoric, the biggest guns, the strictest laws…they all pretend.
Pretend that they can actually change the human heart.
I know my own heart, as dark as the most violent of men, has never been changed by any of these things.
The girl was five years old. I was twelve. She was a neighbor’s daughter that I babysat sometimes because the money was good and the gourmet leftovers stashed in the back of the refrigerator were out of this world. However, I did not like this child. Despite her young age, she was mean. She cussed and hit and didn’t play nice. She was a bully. She bullied her little brother and she bullied my baby sister. One day I decided to end it.
It was one of those summer days when you can hardly take a breath the air is so heavy. The girl had come by to play with my sister and sure enough the taunting and bullying began. Something rose up in me. I’d had enough of the choking, kicking and hitting.
Some might call it justice, but it wasn’t. True justice is noble and compassionate and full of light. I was not noble or compassionate that day. I was full of darkness.
I called the girl to me. She hesitated so I quickly grabbed her by the arm and shoved her behind the sliding wooden door that was the entry point of the old warehoue where we lived. As I started to pull the heavy door to the right, she tried to escape but I blocked her with my right leg and used all the muscle I had to close the door. I stretched my legs between the framing and held onto the door handle.
I knew it would be only seconds before the screaming began.
Where she fought, pounding with all the strength a five year old could muster, was pitch black. I know because I battled fear in that room every single day, waiting for my eyes to land on something, anything, familiar just to get upstairs. I would grope my way for the metal poles with flourescent flowers painted on them that brought some semblance of light so I could see something that would make the black go away. It was the darkest place I’d ever been and fear licked at my heels in that room every day. I knew it was breathing down on this little girl in full force. I did not care.
I was justified. And my justification made me a retaliator.
It doesn’t take a weapon in my hand to prove the violence that can reside in me.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Without God and given the “right” circumstances, the right pain, every one of us is capable of taking matters into our own hands.
Because when God doesn’t matter, in the end, no lives matter.
Where does love even come from? From where do mercy and forgiveness originate?
If we are all fading to black in the end and love is just this subjective thing and my rights and comforts in this life are the only thing that matters…then it’s okay to keep a little girl in the dark when she’s being a jerk, right?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our transgressions.
God always goes first.
Love always begins with Him.
When I was twelve I didn’t know God. He didn’t matter to me and the little girl screaming and begging me to open the door didn’t matter either. I was taught that justice was about teaching someone a lesson.
Then, when I was seventeen, Jesus showed me that justice was about Him and His mercy triumphing over judgment. Jesus, who was stripped naked and indecent, bruised and battered…who tasted the blood of thorns and bled His blood on a crossbeam, showed me that He came, not as a retaliator, but as a Reconciler. Violence meets Love in the flesh and it is the violence that eventually dies.
So I became a psalmist.
I don’t write songs or hymns. I cry them.
I cry the questions of the psalmist when I want enough to be enough.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I lament the lament of the psalmist when the world keeps weeping over and over again.
I am worn out from my groaning.
My eyes flood my bed every night.
I soak my couch with tears.
My eyes blur from grief.
They fail because of my enemies.
I confess the confession of the psalmist when I want someone to be taught a lesson.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
When God matters, you are able to see the cross of Jesus Christ in places of shame and you learn that His love covers a multitude of sins. You see that His mercy triumphs over judgment because He has taken matters into His own hands. The cross crosses the great divide between me, once a retaliator, and a God who reconciles.
I don’t have to stand on a bridge.
I am able to cross it.
This is where we see really see Justice in all her nobility and compassion and light.
Then I thank the thanks of the psalmist.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.