When I was a little girl, we made several road trips as a family, taking us from Jacksonville to witness the stunning beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean, among other wonders, and my brother and I spent many summers exploring the North Carolina mountains with our beloved grandpa “Joe Joe.”
Later, as an adult, I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to West Africa, to take in the splendor of God’s magnificent creation. What moved me most was the vastness of the Serengeti Plain, which seemed to go on forever. Watching all manner of glorious creature stretch and dance and rest filled me with awe and wonder and the sense that it is not too late, that we haven’t yet completely destroyed the planet.
‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.’ I am struck that even as our beautiful earth is in need of healing, she continues to heal us. After the tragic bombings in Boston, and the constant barrage of media coverage and reports (that I, like many others, was drawn to again and again), I found myself grateful this morning for the gentle rain that came down as I took my time getting moving on this, my day off. I found myself drawn to the deep green and quiet of my backyard, longing to dig in the dirt and tend this small patch of paradise. We are destined to be stewards of this island home, and today, after decades of abuse to the planet, to be healers and restorers. Our journey toward personal wholeness is inextricably linked to our care of the planet.
But it is linked not only to our care of the planet, but also to our care of those who live in it (our broken selves included). Wholeness is only possible through honesty and reconciliation. It is only possible when we find ourselves in “the other,” even when the other happens to be our enemy or one who, through his or her actions, comes in our minds to represent “the enemy.” My friend Bill does amazing, holy work, bringing together victims of violent crime with those who have been locked up for committing such crimes. In the process of owning and sharing personal stories, forgiveness is sought and in time received, and compassion and mercy enter in. There are no easy answers, no tidy conclusions, but somehow a fragile hope – a hope in the possibility of new life – is born.
This week, the media coverage continues as lives lost in Boston are mourned. A spotlight is on the surviving bomber. Many commentators struggle to imagine how he could have returned to his college campus, attended classes, worked out and visited with friends. Headlines like ”Bomber partied” stir our outrage even as they shame him. Make no mistake: I am glad that he was caught (alive, thankfully) and am horrified by this terrible act. But his behavior afterwards makes a measure of sense to me. I want to imagine that he returned to campus because he, too, is shocked on some level that this tragedy occurred, and that he was capable of such acts of terror. I want to imagine that he was swept up in the emotion and fervor of an older brother who carried him along. I want to believe that he returned to class and ate spaghetti with his teammates, because he wanted everything to be “normal” again and that if he could make it seem so, then maybe all of the horror would disappear, that it would be as if it never happened.
But it did happen.
If all the earth belongs to the Lord and all the people in it, at some point we must own that we are all called to be in relationship with one another. What has shattered and come apart must at some point come together. Over the unwinding course of time – but none too soon – we will come to identify our similarities more than our differences. We will move through a slow, spiraling dance of disbelief and mourning to a place of healing and wholeness. To a place where there is no room for hate because there is only love.
We all have work to do.