A love that hangs on

God showed us in Christ a love that abides, that perseveres, that remains present to us, however bad things are, for however long it takes; a love that sticks around, a love that stays put, a love that hangs on. … In the resurrection, God made clear to us in Christ that nothing – neither death nor life – can separate us from God’s love. And in the sending of the Spirit, God promised to be with us always, to the end of time, and to empower us to be Christ for others and find Christ in them, beyond our own strength and courage.

Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen, Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence

Lament

Lament means ceasing to try to protect God from our anger, disillusionment and despair.

Lament … searches out the deepest places in the heart and exposes them to the presence of God. It is a whole-body experience.

Lament can be said to have reached its core when the true dimension of grief has been felt, touched, named and articulated.

People get the idea that they’re somehow deficient and defective if they feel pain. People of faith have done a terrible disservice to one another by thinking that, if they love God, they’re not supposed to feel pain.

These thoughts yet again come from Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen, Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence.

Those who learn stillness

And another quote from Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen’s Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence:

Those who learn … stillness find that their lives become a sabbath for those who encounter them. … Their lives become an embrace of the qualities and gifts in those around them that others have been too busy or too threatened or too self-absorbed to see and encourage. Their lives become an invitation into a place of depth, but an exhilarating invitation because it is depth without fear, depth as an adventure in which you are expecting to be met by God. Their lives become a place and a time of renewal in which others rediscover who they are and who God is.

Silence

In Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence, Samuel Wells and Marcia A. Owen talk about the importance of silence, the silence of listening, the silence of being present, the silence of solidarity, the ministry of silence. When confronted with the pain of others, ‘we want to speak’, they admit, ‘because we don’t want to feel, and we speak to stop people from feeling’. Yet silence is so important because it says:

I am not going to tell you I’m too busy. I am not going to make light of your struggles. I am not going to tell you something more interesting actually happened to me. I am not going to say, ‘I know,’ when you’re exploring a feeling for the first time. I am not going to change the subject when you bring up something that’s hard to hear. … You can trust me to listen. You can trust me to withhold my personal investment for another time and another place. You can trust me to be alert to the ways of God, however strange the story you tell.

I have no enemies

Some thoughts on love, fear and violence from Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence, a book that I am enjoying more and more:

Living beyond fear … means hearing God say, ‘Love, just love. Find your way to love that person, find your way to love that forest, find your way to love all things, especially the things you find so unlovable and so frightening.’

The book is about a community’s journey to overcome powerlessness and fear in the face of gun violence. It is co-authored by Samuel Wells, at the time of writing Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School, and Marcia A. Owen, Executive Director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. It also tells the story of Owen’s own transformation, which came about as a result of being involved in this struggle to end gun violence.

Marcia felt a gift being given to her – the awareness that we are a profound unity; we are of equal value and worth. […] It allowed her to love. She could feel her soul grow. It didn’t change her personality – it didn’t erase all the hurts and the fears and the anxieties she had. But it let her love. And it gave her peace.

The authors quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s apt contention that ‘if we could see the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility’. And they ask:

What makes a person lash out and make someone an enemy? It comes from a feeling of profound powerlessness and fear that says, ‘I’m not big enough for this.’ Living without enemies is radical acceptance. … You lead with your soul by taking a moment to say, ‘I accept all that is, all the suffering I’ve caused, all the suffering I’ve endured. I just accept it. There are no enemies.’ Then you can begin to see the glorious nature of each one of us.

They talk about ‘the most empowering gift in ministry’, which is ‘hearing God whispering, “I have no enemies.”‘ And they note that ‘fear is at the heart of violence’, and so ‘the final response to violence is learning to live without fear’.

When we begin to honestly feel that we are all part of the same community … then we will begin to find the grief and pain and loss caused by violence to be truly unacceptable, and we will join together to finally say, Enough is enough.