Dispatches from the in-between
Your neighbors don’t want to talk about anything. People are quiet, and still. People smile at you like they need to be deferential, and your heart breaks just a little bit more. The cracks in our facades, our religion, our good cheer are visible. Don’t talk about family. Don’t talk about nieces and nephews and sick mothers you will never see again. Don’t talk about the bus being late, how it feels to be visible and exposed in a country where you are the minority, where you are constantly vilified. Your neighbors say everything is fine, there is no problem, they are grateful. They do not want to talk to the news crew, they do not want you to write a story about them. They want to be left alone for once in their lives, they want to be safe and cook and eat the food that reminds them of their grandma. They don’t want to talk about anything. You sit in silence and eat together, you smile at your children. It is a communion of suffering, and you only partake in the slightest bit of it.
Your other neighbors, the ones who live a bit farther away, are saying all sorts of things. They have fear in their heart. Some of them want you to talk more, but in a nicer way. Some of them want you to talk less. Some of them want you to share more stories, humanize situations, try harder to reach the conservatives. Some of them are worried about you and your mental health. Some of them are excited that now they can finally be free to say what they really want to say. Some of them think you are too sad, to angry, too fearful, too much. Some of them think now is your time to speak, and to use your voice in the most strategic and pragmatic of ways. Some of them think this battle can be won with words. Some of them remind you that this is what you have been trying to do for the past decade,
and this is the exact moment when you realize that it didn’t work.
Your heart is the field that Jesus adored. He gave you the good news from your neighbors, who are Muslim and refugees and poor and undocumented. Together, you worked the soil, together you made it a place for the gospel to grow and bloom. But there were other patches you forgot about. There are stony places, even now, which feel as barren and as desolate as drained-out dam. You know Jesus is there, waiting to help you pick up the debris. You know, even now, how much work it will be to have softness, to have hope, sprout up in every single corner of your life. You start to entertain thoughts of picking up the rocks, together with your suffering servant king. You know you have committed your life to a God who never leaves a single stone unturned. Praise the Lord, indeed.
For those, like myself, caught not in the heat of “political” debates but for whom our life and livelihood and loves are now inherently considered controversial: God bless you today. You are seen, and you are known. It is so very hard, and it will not get any easier any time soon. But be blessed, today. Together we are working towards the kingdom of God. Together we are all being transformed.