It can be really hard to hear through noise, chaos, and utter confusion.
It can be distracting to face unanswered questions and upsetting statements.
It can be impossible to discern one voice from another in the cacophony. Regardless of the tone, the demeanor, the purpose of the voices.
Especially when everyone is shouting at the same time.
When everything and everyone around you is running on a passion high and has assumed seemingly unrivaled fervor and volume, only to be outscreamed by the next voice to enter the fray. Never mind the unceasing stream of media that adds to the voices, the analyses, the critiques of every single minutia of everything.
It can be like a total sensory overload.
And this week has been particularly overwhelming in every essence of the word.
From the tenors of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches that my girls and I listened to and read about… His six love-based values he so strongly desired his listeners and fellow leaders to live out in peace and not in violence, his hopes and dreams that were so influential that eventually a holiday was created in his memory. An eternal tribute to a legacy built on love. Because love really was his greatest offering for a solution to the unrest and the cacophony of noise from all sides that surrounded the fight.
To the videos we soaked in of the first March on Washington and the sometimes-civil uprisings through the eyes of a little African American girl at a more tumultuous time than now… And when that same young lady in the American Girl movie followed love’s call on her heart to overcome the fears and the anxieties and the violence that threatened its very nature and to find an out-of-the-box way to love others anyway, my girls saw a solution that looked vastly different than brutality and a sadly perpetuating cycle that plays out before the eyes of children who will one day be left with the decisions for how to determine their own response in the face of anger and adversity.
To the photos we viewed of semi-civil disputes on the streets of Washington D.C. at the inauguration and the mostly well-behaved marches around the world on the following day, battles still ensued to bring attention to causes that have incited fear and anger and hurt and confusion among various people groups for a multitude of reasons… And what my three young girls saw were people who wanted to be heard loudly and immediately and with force and passion, not to be misunderstood or lost. My children saw other kids burning fires in streets and spitting on embers and telling off adults, simply because they could. My children saw some adults who were throwing bricks and setting hard-earned businesses ablaze, some who were creating signs of vulgarity and disrespect, some who wanted to be a part of one of the most contentious political events in America of recent years.
My children saw good and bad and ugly.
These little future adults saw so many examples of right and wrong ways to address problems and concerns and fears.
These little future decision makers saw and heard things that they have questioned and that have worried them.
These little future world changers will have to take the lessons they have learned from family, from friends, from church, from society, from experience, from success, from failure, from leaders everywhere and somehow form their own worldviews, their own approaches to addressing issues, their own ways of coping in the face of adversity and fear and anger, their own grit to muscle through the tough stuff.
But I’m not sure that they heard solutions to the problems, or saw many helpers in the scary moments, or felt comforted by much of what they observed. I’m not sure that they noticed from anyone on any side.
Because they were too distracted by the fear and the anger.
And any love that was expressed was lost in the rest of the noise.
What are we doing to our children? What are we saying is the best strategy for them to carry forward? Is being the loudest voice and the most attention-grabbing behavior really the best we can offer them? Yes, it gets the quickest results, but is it the only response we should be providing publicly or privately?
The thing is, we are all really worried about the violence in our neighborhoods and communities. We are all concerned that our children are growing up in an increasingly scary and unpredictable environment online, at school, in workplaces, anywhere. We are all frantic to solve issues like bullying and random mass shootings and abuse. We are all terrified that they will become hooked on prescription meds or illegal drugs, killed while texting or drinking and driving, or hurt irreparably by predictable or unpredictable illnesses. Many of us are fearful that politics and political leaders on all sides will vote and veto choices we wouldn’t choose, and make statements that disturb us for one reason or another to such a passionate degree. We want equality and justice at the end of the day just as much as we want it at the start of the day.
We want safe spaces and so do our kids. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Always.
And sometimes we have to be the ones to create it.
Sometimes we are called to be part of the answers.
Sometimes we are desperately needed to be the problem solvers, not the problem makers.
Sometimes we have to be the hands and feet first, and not just the voices.
Because we are all part of the same entity. Regardless of what each of us wants for ourselves or for society or for politics as individuals and independently of anyone else, the simple fact of the matter is that we are not each our own islands.
And for that very reason, we cannot just be one part of our own bodies.
Not just a voice or ears.
Not just hands without feet.
Not just a brain devoid of soul or heart.
We must lasso all of our fracturedness and our brokenness about all of these things that frighten us and embolden us, and we must take it to the cross. We must take our whole selves forward in faith and into the fray to be love in the face of fear and anger.
We must find the GOoD in all situations, so that we may share the GOoD with others at all times because GOD is the good in all things and all people. And thus we are one, brought together in love through Jesus Christ as God’s own children. Every single one of us.
We are all one body, made up of innumerable parts.
We have to work together, to value each other even when we disagree, to love each other even when we dislike choices or words, to unify for the good of the body and not just the self.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
We are all called to communities of suffering when even one part is suffering, and to communities of jubilation when only one part is rejoicing.
We are all called into equal concern for one another, regardless of religion, race, gender, or any other divisiveness that we have created. Because God told us so.
But in reality, we have separated ourselves into the parts we now desperately want to equate. God didn’t do that. Yes, He absolutely uses His divine creativity in His molding of each one of us, but He does not desire such division. He absolutely craves our beloved uniqueness and our designed value to be seen and held worthy simply because He made it so.
We must strive for oneness, not because we are to lose our individuality, but because we are divinely different beings.
And the only way, the ONLY WAY, to do so is to recognize that we are each valued and beloved by God, and therefore love must be the way to respond to those things that incite fear and anger and violence and sorrow.
Otherwise, we are not much more than noise.
All other responses to the trials and triumphs of the world will eventually pass away. All of the cacophony will eventually grow quiet. All of the distractions will cease to distract. All of the rest of life will creep back in to those passion-filled fires and something else will take its place.
But Love will never end, will never fail. Because God is love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing…
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears…
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 8-10, 13).
Because we cannot respond any way. We must choose our solutions, our responses, our methods cautiously and value-ably. For everyone’s sake.
And when love is the way that we choose to respond, love will never fail. Because God is Love.