Saturday, April 16, 2011

I. Slavery

[September 2007, in the sky, headed to India]

I pulled a torn scrap of paper from an envelope in my journal.  I opened the paper and read 'seeing a family weeping, carrying their baby girl wrapped in a towel, dead from a traumatic home birth.  Come Lord Jesus.  25 January'.

I took out another scrap: '29 December, 15 year old Laxmi, HIV positive, her baby girl born with her heart on the right side of her body and dies a few days later.'

Another, 'the beautiful old women, mothers and babies, crippled and blind men begging on the streets. My lack of action, true compassion and understanding…helplessness and one rupee coins.'



Inside the envelope are many more papers with rememberings scribbled down; there is also a picture of me and my friend Bri, sipping Maltina's after church, our faces rosey with West Africa and friendship.

'1Feb. The little baby girls in the nursery—abandoned and starving for love and a home.'

This envelope labeled "Slavery'' was given to me by Kristina, my kindred spirit, soon after my 24th birthday, somewhere in Georgia during a road trip.  It came with two other envelopes marked 'Faith'
and 'Delivery', but I'll save those thoughts.  Some words on the envelope explained its purpose:  This enveloped is for testimony that creation is frustrated and groaning.  Personal pain, corporate injustice, fear and sadness are all evidence of the chains that still shackle creation.  Sometimes it helps to acknowledge them.

As I write this (in a notebook) I'm 30,000 feet above the earth, but still hear the echoes of slavery, even only as it reverberates in my own heart.  Am I prepared for India again?  I haven't seen someone begging in nearly three months, or held a stillborn baby or seen a mother weep at the birth of her third daughter.  I fear the compassion, I fear the numbness.  Even thought I can recognize the pain as (as Henri Nouwen writes) THE PAIN, as the cosmic labour pains of the world without end...

it's still pain.  And I still feel helpless, like a silent witness of the chaos that erupts again and again. And how am I bearing witness to the new creation, free from slavery?  I feel guilty for not being more hopeful, more happy, more peaceful.  But then the Apostle Paul writes that even we, with the Spirit of God in us, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption…we are not exempt from the labour pain, especially because we have a deposit of God's own heart in ours.

This groaning is how we announce that the new world is coming.  The pain in our hearts, the testifying that yes, creation is enslaved—that's our confession of Hope.  We acknowledge the pain and because the Spirit of God lives in us, we know that the pain is not okay.  We reject the lie that tries to lull us to sleep with ''this is how things are and always will be''.  The groaning of creation and of our spirits is the ultimate protest of an enemy that desperately wants us to be at peace in the way the world is right now.

May a stillborn baby never become okay.

May we never tire of the protest.

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