A Response to Horror in my Backyard
The events in my adopted home state of Texas have been heartbreaking. But I have never been more proud to be an adopted Texan. The response of our police officers and those who were peacefully expressing their views were both extraordinary. The response of the community did not surprise me. Contrary to some national stereotypes, Dallas is a truly good place with all of the flaws of a major city but with something in it's heart that gives me hope for healing.
Pastor TD Jakes voiced a powerful prayer at Thanksgiving Square near the site of the horror.
"We are being tested down to the core. Not just to see - can we survive the atrocities that have confronted us last night, but to see if we will rebound and reinvigorate ourselves in such a way that we come up a better city than we were before. What we faced in Dallas did not start in Dallas. It is a reflection of our country, of our times, of cities around the world and around our country...are in peril. I've been asked to pray for the nation, but before I do I just want to tell you that like many of you, I have been up most of the night. I found it very difficult to rest in my own bed, almost impossible to sleep on my own pillow. About 2:30 in the morning I text a friend of mine and I said: I am sleepless in Dallas. But then I realized that they were sleepless in Ferguson, that they were sleepless in Baltimore, that they are sleepless in Louisiana, that they are sleepless in Milwaukee. Then I had to confess to the fact that many of us do not recognize pain until it's on our front porch. As we come together today we cannot be oblivious to the plight of this nation. We cannot turn our head the other way when tragedy strikes someone who votes differently, or dresses differently, or speaks differently or even believes differently. For the tragedy that we ignore today will be on our doorstep tomorrow. We must pray for our nation."
We must change our dialogue and I am challenging myself and followers of Jesus to lead the way. We can no longer be indifferent to the racial wounds in this nation. The indifference of the church and Christians is the hole in the fence that allows evil to crawl through unencumbered.
I do not understand the pain that my black brothers and sisters live with every day. But I want to listen. I am no longer interested in rationalizing my own "non-racist" resume. It doesn't matter. The fact that men and women of color are hurting and feeling marginalized in this great nation makes my heart hurt. Can we finally begin to sit down, talk, and actually listen?
I recalled how Jesus looked over the beloved city of Jerusalem and wept at what He saw.
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19:41-42)
Today I pray that all people would understand the way to peace. I am begging God that it not be too late and that we, as the community of believers, will open our eyes. I am praying that believers of all colors in this community will lead the way.
Today I am asking God for the courage to take a different path. I am asking Him to help me be a light in a sad and dark moment. I am sick of the divisive rhetoric and I am not going to be a part of it. Enough!
Jesus told His followers that we are to be a light to those around us.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Sometimes I don't feel much like a light to the world. I feel more like the dimmest bulb in the Church Light Store. A quote from one of my favorite authors gave me hope.
"Imperfection is the only prerequisite for grace. Light only gets in through the cracks."~ Philip Yancey
For years I tried to patch the cracks with new disciplines and phony masks. Now I own each and every flaw and crack that allows the light of the Gospel into the darkness of my soul. And when I am vulnerable to others they see that light shining right back through those same cracks of imperfection. And suddenly the command of Jesus is not so daunting because it has NOTHING to do with me. It is all about letting the light of the Gospel into my heart and sharing that light with others. Then good deeds flow out of gratitude and not begrudging obligation.
Love one another. Listen. Talk without having to prove yourself right. Tell a police officer that you are grateful for their sacrifice. Love people different from you. Pray for them. Give grace to those you encounter. Pray for those that openly oppose you. Jesus had some words on that topic.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:43-44, NLT)
That is impossible unless I remember where my light comes from today. When I do remember I can love in a way that reflects the love of Jesus back to a world that could use some light right now.
Dave Burchett is the Author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. A portion of every sale goes to train service dogs for wounded veterans through Patriot Paws.