This is one of those days when I still cannot decide. What was the spirit that led me to leave my bed and venture into the world on this Father’s Day? At first, I thought it was God. After deciding I would hibernate for the weekend, I had received a text on Friday to read a scripture passage this Sunday. Of course, I said yes. I love to be a worship “leader” whatever that means. I love to read scripture aloud. And for better or worse, I love to please. It must be the Great Spirit, I said as I responded “yes” on Friday and as I made my journey to worship today. The reading went okay but everything else before and after seemed to go wrong, not in a major way but with small signals. By midday, I wondered, “What spirit had this been?”
After worship, I made my way to lunch ahead of the rest of my lunch group for the day. I could not meet and greet or do the cocktail party type chit-chat. I needed to leave, to find a space to let go of the hurt and anger and despair. As I parked at the lunch venue, backing in near a modest incline, an individual standing on the sidewalk below assisted me with the ordinary stop and go hand motions. When I exited my car and thanked him, I realized that he was an elderly man and a Vietnam War veteran (thanks to the words on his baseball cap). We chatted briefly and for some reason, his words cheered me. Only a few words about people each of us knew who fought in Vietnam and about being childless on Father’s Day were shared but those words were heartfelt, I believe, on both sides.
After chatting with a few other people at the restaurant before and after meeting my lunch group, I journeyed home, hardly able to hold back the tears. I made it in, let the tears flow, and then began to wonder what motivated this mood. Was it limited to another Father’s Day without my father and without my uncle, who had raised me like a father? Was it the sadness of sitting “alone” in worship in the midst of a room full of people? Was it the ongoing struggle of going to any worship service and not using the gifts I have been given and yet knowing that those gifts do not fit within a “traditional” or even “contemporary” worship structure? Was it the current political climate, a feeling of being trapped between worlds with so many people I care for seeing the world so differently, thanks in part to different media outlets and different social connections? Was it the feeling that no matter how much I researched the world that lay beyond these borders and how much I hurt, I am stuck, stuck between the land of my birth and the hatred and venom that spews forth with reckless abandon within it and venues abroad that each have their attributes and their detriments when compared to what has always been home? How can I, as an African-American female, well-educated and having received so many gifts from family and friends, describe the despair that overtakes me at this moment? Only if you have had or are having similar feelings about life, about country, about vocation, not occupation or career, but vocation, or about the earthly loss of family and friends can you truly understand.
I have the luxury on this day to go to bed in comfort, in good health, and with an awareness that there are many tomorrows in which any minute may bring positive changes within myself, within those I love, and within the country that is my home. The fear which arose to the surface this day is that those positive changes within the United States may not occur. In the midst of that fear, I still believe that each of us is called to do what we can to move our country forward in ways that show our compassion for all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background, or citizenship status. My prayer this evening is simply that each of you will open your hearts to feel and to understand where we are as a people, to for a moment let yourself take in with all of your senses the cruelty, the intolerance, the mistrust, the fear, and the hatred that has become so pervasive among us. My prayer is that we each speak and act with the awareness that we are not invincible as a nation, that we, like so many nations and empires before us may be permanently divided or destroyed as a people. My prayer is that each of us will find ways to surrender to openness, to hope, and to a justice that values and cherishes every life. May we allow ourselves to be guided by the loving, vulnerable, and embracing Spirit that rests within each of us and that I believe yearns for us to be so much more as a people than we are on this day. Amani.