This morning did not feel like a day to go for my normal workout at the gym. After sitting in with one of the small groups at church early this morning, I went for a long walk around a park to pray, to listen, to chew on what my Sunday sermon might end up like. As I started out, it was a chilly morning and I, because I didn’t check the weather, was wearing shorts and a light jacket. I thought about just going back to the car but instead decided that I needed that feeling of cold while I was out. I had been reading tweets and other messages from people all over the political spectrum about the election last night and I just needed to “feel” something this morning. The cold would do.
As I left the paved part of the path and started walking on the gravel, I found myself getting agitated. I realized that it was the noise of the gravel. I needed silence and the gravel wasn’t doing it for me. I also stopped at a bench to read the daily readings and the series of judgments that are shared in Jeremiah 48-49 were just words I couldn’t take in this morning either – they felt like the gravel I was hearing so loudly. I then walked on and chose to walk in the grass along the side of the gravel path. Blessedly, I came to a place there where I was able to simply listen to my breath, to the Creation around me, and to try to hear that small voice of God that is referenced in 1 Kings 19.
I walked past several others who were out walking that morning and there were quiet hellos or nods of good morning as we passed. I finally came to my favorite place in that park – a bench at an overlook where many of my sermons recently have been crafted. I walked around there and prayed about the passage for this coming Sunday, John 17. I listened. I talked. Thoughts and words started to come together into what I feel the Lord might be leading me to for this coming weekend – a word that not only speaks to me this morning but I think also speaks into the need for all of us moving forward.
And so, the walk continued. I continued to feel the need to walk along the side of the path, taking in the silence of the morning. I noticed several others doing the same thing – I wonder if the gravel was too loud for them? And then, I came to a place where I could no longer walk on the side. The grass fell away toward the creek on one side and a hill on the other. There was only the gravel to walk on and so there I had to go (or I guess I could have turned back). It still seemed loud but that was the only way I could go while still moving forward. All the while, I continued to feel cold legs and cold fingers. I needed to feel the cold this morning knowing that many of my dear friends and so many I don’t know are feeling a cold wind upon them because they wonder what their country has for them in the years ahead.
As I came to the last part of the walk (now back on pavement), I reflected back on what I had experienced over those three miles. I came into that time knowing that I needed a silent space. I needed a space for me to be able to hear my heart and mind, to listen to the Spirit speaking, and to settle my heart. But I also know that I needed to get off the silent path and back onto the gravel that I wanted to avoid. I wanted to walk in the silence. I wanted to walk in the quiet. Yet while there are times for that, there are other times where it is necessary to walk where we are uncomfortable in order to move foward.
I need to walk along with those who are grieving the results of the election last night and wondering what it will mean ahead for them personally and for our country and world. I also need to walk along with those who are celebrating the results. I may not be celebrating with them but I need to walk along side them in love for we are fellow travelers on the same roads – roads of faith, the roads of our nation and our world.
I also will need to walk into those places (and this is nothing new – this is the everyday work we are all called to) where justice needs to be lived out, righteousness proclaimed, and hope offered – those are not always comfortable or easy roads to walk. These are the roads that the words in Jeremiah speak to – the judgments in today’s readings are against those who have not walked in the ways of the Lord – both those within the chosen nation and those beyond it.
And yes, through it all, there are times where silence must be sought and found and lived in – to listen for the voice of Christ speaking through all that is taking place.
I still have a heavy heart this day but I am grateful for the ways that the Lord met me this morning to both encourage and to challenge me.
When I got home, I saw a post on facebook from a friend of mine who was sharing a message he received from his daughter earlier today. The words captured so beautifully much of what I experienced this morning and I am grateful for her words that likewise encourage and challenge.
So that was really rough.
I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m angry.
But the thing is, that doesn’t help.
Over the next four years we’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we’re the country we’re supposed to be. The country maybe we thought we already were. A lot of work.
But our first job is to listen.
Listen to your neighbors when they say they’re scared.
Listen to your friends when they say they’re worried.
And yes, listen to the people who voted the other way.
Because we can’t live in a country where we don’t talk to each other, and we can’t live in a country where we just hate each other.
There will be a lot of work, but the job right now is to listen. It’s the only way we’ll know what the next job is.”