One week ago we left our home. The car was packed with all our belongings, enough for a month. The kids were excited, scared, angry, sad. They were leaving behind everything they had known.
We headed west a bit, then pointed straight north. “El Norte”, the land flowing with milk and honey. Well maybe not, but we saw a lot of cows.
What was waiting for us there? I was pursuing a dream of education. But so much remained unknown. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would the kids go to school? Would they make friends, or would they be too “different”.
Three and a half days ago we arrived.
…and here the story diverges.
There were no borders to cross, no barriers. No fear of my children being separated from me. No skin to flag me for scrutiny.
All the possibilities are still unknown. But I woke up today and read this verse, in a meditation by Richard Rohr:
Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3
And so today we went. Not to the palace, but to a correctional facility in Sheridan, OR. The flag flew over the scene, encased by barbed wire and tall fences. We sat under an Apple tree, overlooking a fishing pond, and sang songs of solidarity. We sang for brothers and fathers and sons, 121 from 16 countries recently brought here from the border. They are missing wives and mothers and children, forcibly separated from them.
And so this seemed right and good to do, our first weekend in Oregon. Standing with Sikh and Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian and Quakers, praying as we held the chain links in our fingers. Hannah and I felt a strange sense of belonging, even in this strange cool green world populated with so many white folks.
There is hope for this family, my family, in this move north. We ache for our community in the desert. But, we stand together, with eyes open in curiosity and wonder. What will open before us in the days to come?
And for our brothers and sisters who no longer have the dream, we stand. And we will continue to pray, to protest, to write, to call. We choose to speak for those who have no voice.
“What is hope?
It is a presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks.
It is a hunch
that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress is not the last word. It is a suspicion
that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe and that the frontiers of the possible
are not determined by the limits of the actual and that in a miraculous and unexpected way life is preparing the creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…. The two, suffering and hope, live from each other. Suffering without hope
produces resentment and despair, hope without suffering
creates illusions, naivete, and drunkenness…. Let us plant dates
even though those who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. This is the secret discipline.
It is a refusal to let the creative act
be dissolved in immediate sense experience
and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined love
is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints the courage to die for the future they envisaged.
They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.”
Source: “Tomorrow’s Children” by Ruben Aves. from Hijos de Maoana, by Rubem Alves. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sigueme, 1976.
Hope is a single drop left in the center of the flowers after the rain. It is the courage that says I will speak in the face of oppression and violence. It is a flower striped by Creator. It is daring to step, putting one foot in front of the other into the swirling unknown. It is a cloud edged with purple and gilded with gold. It is finding a voice for those who have no voice. It is planting seeds, knowing that I will not see the outcome.
It is my reality. I live into hope unseen.
The disinherited will know for themselves
that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men
which is committed to overcoming the world.
It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture and no condition of men.
For the privileged and the under privileged alike,
if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline,
he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.
High Destiny, by Howard Thurman. From the Lenten Poetry companion, neighborhood ministries.
I was first introduced to Howard Thurman in the Mystic Activists. His book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was our focus this fall for a month. It was not enough time to do it justice. But I am learning that theology must come from the bottom up.
We are in a focused time of prayer for our Dreamers. Tomorrow is the deadline for a permanent solution for these children, now grown, who were brought to the states before age 5. They are woven into the very fabric of our culture and society. They are our teachers, they are in nursing classes and serving in our Armed Forces. Dreamers work in every service profession. And they live in a constant state of uncertainty. They never know when their permission could be suddenly gone. And so, quite literally, would they.
The challenge of Scripture must also be read from the bottom up. This is who Jesus hung out with, which often earned harsh criticism from the powers that were in place. The validity and application of Scripture is only as significant as its application to the lowest among us. In fact, when we understand Scripture in this manner, we also see ourselves in that same way. We are the they, living in the most need and desperation.
It is only from this reading of Scripture that we can form a compassionate response to any issues of justice. Literally, the word for compassion with passion or with feeling. Compassion comes when I am moved in my innermost self by the pain of another. I must choose to enter the story. And today, the story is that of our dreamers.
I would ask you today to stand in prayer for the dreamers.
“We are not experiencing utopia here on earth.
But God meant things to be easier than we have made them.
A man has a natural right to food, clothing and shelter.
A family needs work as well as bread.
Property is proper to man.
We must keep repeating these things.
Eternal life begins now, “all the way to heaven is heaven, because He said, ‘I am the Way.’”
The Cross is there of course, but “in the Cross is joy of spirit.”
And love makes all things easy …
Love is indeed a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, of each of us, but it is the only answer …
to the saints everyone is child and lover.
Everyone is Christ.”
Utopia by Dorothy Day. From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Neighborhood Ministries.
A harsh and dreadful thing…
The phrase reminds me of the Denise Levertov reading where she equates mercy to rage and joy.
Why do we make the gospel into a Hallmark movie? This thing that we are asked to do is both easy and hard. The call to love God and love neighbor, is the whole deal in one phrase. And it takes a lifetime to live into.
These natural rights are not the norm for many even in our “wealthy” country. Privilege is real, an unseen line that divides and creates distinction. If you don’t believe that, you probably live from a place of invisible privilege.
“Eternal life begins now.” The kingdom of God is a both and. It is coming and it is here. I am to long for it and work for it today. It is the sublime paradox.
It is in this paradox that I find hope. And love, as easy to love as it is to love a little child or a lover.
And this is the kingdom of God. Even so come.