“Well, darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. I wrap my fear around me like a blanket, I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it…” – Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
Things are looking dark right now. We are less than a week into our brave new world, and already we see actions targeting refugees, immigrants (both documented and undocumented), the Earth, Native Americans, and science.
Throughout our nation and the world, people are watching with fear, are waiting with anxiety, and listening for the sound of darkness descending. There is so very much to hear.
Honestly, as an upper-middle-class white lady living in a wealthy community, it would be so easy to shutter the doors of my life, draw a protective bubble around myself and my family, and ride out the next four (god-willing not eight) years, keeping those I know and love safe. The temptation to offer myself and others empty platitudes – “God is still on the throne!”, “Well, no matter what, Jesus is Lord!” — rather than sit with my fear and listen to and affirm the fear of vulnerable people. That temptation is strong. I’ve been fighting it like an addict resisting the bottle ever since November 9th.
Because the reality of my privilege (and most likely yours too if you are reading this) is that I could do exactly that. I could retreat into the safety of my zip code, and the security of my skin, and know that my family and I, we will be just fine.
But will we be just fine? What happens to my soul if I retreat into the silence that equals complicity in the mistreatment and oppression of the least of these? What sort of spiritual atrophy sets in when the words of the Gospel take a back seat to #AmericaFirst? What kind of witness do I give when I am silent in the face of injustice? My children are watching me and there is too much at stake for us to hide.
The enormity of the call can tug at my arm like a tiny, impatient child wanting her turn. The call to put yourself between a vulnerable “Jesus with skin on” (another way of saying person) and the power that seeks to strip them of their dignity is hard to hear and even harder to embrace. The fear of what will happen, of friends I might lose or how others will think of me looms.
Yet to live a fully integrated life as a follower of Christ, this is exactly what I must do. I must feel the fear, the fear my skin and my zip code have shielded me from, and do it anyway. I must stand in a posture of humility and listen to the voices of the poor and marginalized, and let go of the notion that I have anything to teach them. They teach me. They greet each of their days with this fear, this othering, the knowledge that to make a mistake might cost them dearly. Still they dare to hope, to dream, to listen to the Spirit and create words and images of unimaginable beauty.
And right now these brothers and sisters of mine are in fear. They feel the darkness encroaching and have no safe place to hide. It’s not enough to simply call for others to “be the light”. Many of my suffering human family members cannot be the light because they do not have a candle. But I have a candle and my relative safety lets me stand in the darkness, where the light of the Spirit blazes brightly, when I remember to take my cupped hands away. The Spirit blazes in the darkness until my brothers and sisters remember the candle has been with them all along. This is solidarity at its heart — standing with those in darkness until they remember their own light.
And that light compels me to stand in the midst of darkness and make a physical barrier between it and them. For this is the sacrifice of the Cross. Christ made of himself a physical barrier between us and the darkness, and He has called us to follow him.
I will follow him to assist refugees in my community.
I will follow him by showing up for racial justice.
I will follow him by feeding the poor and giving drink to the thirsty, no matter their legal status in this country.
I will follow him to sanctuary cities.
I will follow him to any wall they might build, ready to tear brick from brick.
I will follow him when I throw my blanket of safety from my shoulders, no matter how my hands tremble.