The Words I Don’t Have

I have been told on more than one occasion that I’m the guy that always knows what to say. Though I know better, it does encourage me to use the gifts I’ve been given. But today I have far more questions than answers. How do I say (or write) the words I just don’t have.

Yet another horrific occurrence has taken place this week as a man’s life was snuffed out for fear he would continue to resist. Fear is a dangerous thing on every side of situations like that. Fear makes one man cower and another man bow up. Fear makes the pulse race and the options fade. Fear makes the person that is different from me seem dangerous to me.

Fear lies.

And while it lies to me, it keeps me from hearing the truth that I know in my calm, thoughtful, clear moments.

But it keeps happening. And it keeps happening to the same unique population within our country. Brothers and sisters, made in the image of God, whose lives are cut short due to fear, keep dying in bad situations poorly handled.

And here in my comfortable office in my comfortable community far, far away from those cold big-city streets, fear works on me. It tells me I don’t have anything to say. It tells me I can’t speak about the injustice because I shouldn’t offend my friends and neighbors in law enforcement. It tells me I can’t speak because I don’t spend time with people who look different from me. It tells me I can’t speak because I am the textbook middle aged white man.

But… fear lies.

There are a significant number of young men in this world that call me dad or for whom I have a father-like role. Three of those young men in particular look very different from me. They look a lot more like the man being held down by his neck than the officer kneeling thereon.

These young men are people I have not only an opportunity but a God-given responsibility to speak to about the hard realities of life. These are the ones to whom I must speak… wisely, carefully, deliberately.

These are the ones who so need the words I don’t have. I can’t say why someone who looks like me could hate someone that looks like them. I can’t explain why I will probably always whisper a prayer without words for their protection when they leave my presence just because they will face stuff  that their brothers who were born to me never will.

At least for this moment, I’m the dad in their lives. And no amount of wise words or good teaching or careful warning will prevent someone from fearing them because they look different.

God help me! I want to say something—to them, to you, to anyone who might read these words… I want to express my outrage and my fear and my embarrassment that stuff like this still happens in this place we still somehow call the land of the free.

How do I say the words I don’t have?

Prudence, Please

The hullabaloo over the pandemic of COVID-19 is, as most things in the world of public interactions, one of extremes.

On one side of things the broad distrust of the media industry and suspicion of anything that could be seen as a political ploy results in apathy toward what is surely no more of a concern than the common flu. I can see that to some degree.

On the other side, there is the panic at the thought of this virus decimating our country and bringing our health care system and entire economy to ruin. The outrage toward those who don’t see this as a serious matter is, in some sense, understandable.

But, despite the many voices in the world telling us that theirs is the only reasonable perspective, there is a great deal of ground in between the extremes.

I’m not a scientist and I don’t pretend to know the medical ins and outs of this situation. What I do know is that this is not beyond the scope and application of biblical wisdom.

Twice in the book of Proverbs we read these words (prompted by the Spirit of God but delivered through one of the most wealthy men that ever lived):

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

Proverbs 22.3; 27.12

SO… let’s get straight to it. It is FOOLISH to go on as if it’s nothing. But it is also FOOLISH to move into a bubble and forsake the rest of the world. It is PRUDENT to pay attention and take reasonable precautions.

The problem, as a follower of Jesus, for either of these extremes is one of self-centeredness.

On the one hand, those who are hoarding toilet paper (which NO ONE has been able to explain to me) and sealing themselves inside their own homes and pulling their kids out of school or anything else that might bring them in potential conflict with the unwashed masses are reacting entirely out of fear. Fear almost never leads to wise decisions.

On the other hand, those who insist that this is just all a campaign of media hype and there is no cause for concern and thus will not so much as take advice on how long and thoroughly to wash their hands are reacting entirely out of arrogance. This also almost never leads to wise decisions.

But the bigger issue here is that the vast majority of us are NOT going to be the ones to be killed by this virus. It’s those precious folks whose bodies are already worn down by age or disease or other compromising condition that will fall to this illness.

It’s my hope-filled and rambunctious nephews that have had more heart surgery in the first few years of life than most of us could endure in a lifetime…

It’s the very dear folks that I know and love who, now into their nineties, have a depth of experience-informed praying for us that I can hardly bear to part with…

The reasonable precautions of prudence are not for me and probably not for you. They are to protect those who can’t fight this thing. Our panic will not help them. Our apathy won’t either. Our prudence may keep them from having to fight this particular battle.

I have to ask: If we can’t be counted on to be diligent to wash our hands for the sake of “the least of these,” what hope do we have of ever learning to wash their feet?

So please, my brothers and sisters, don’t panic.

Please, my brothers and sisters, don’t act like it’s not there.

Let’s be more concerned about protecting the weak among us than we are about our convenience or preference or comfort.

Surely when we’ve done such for the least of these, we have done so unto Jesus himself.

More Than Ever

For 29 Valentine’s Days, she’s been my very own.

28 years of marriage, six kids birthed and raised and launched, several others by fostering and accepting and encouraging, 11 different homes, 12 vehicles, 8 church families, a few epic arguments, buckets and buckets of tears and a whole lot more laughter… and counting.

To look back at those wedding photos, it’s clear we were just kids. We were so excited to launch into this life together and had no idea what was in store. I thought I loved her then, but now more than ever.

She came across this song today and shared it and I listened… and cried.

(If you know me at all, you’re not surprised. I’m a cryer. It is what it is.)

It’s by a duo known as Out of the Dust. It says so much about where we are in life. You just need to give it a listen.

A marriage is intended by its Designer to be a place of absolute vulnerability and familiarity…

Darling, here we are
You know every strength and every scar
You’re seeing every part

It’s not a place that is found and fueled by feelings. It’s a decision to daily choose what is best for your partner…

Feelings change but that’s when love will say
Now more than ever
Write it on my heart for when it’s hard and we forget
Through joy and pain love will whisper
Now more than ever

But there’s so much more here.

This marriage thing (as I seem to be writing over and over again) is not simply a thing people decided to do. It’s not a societal construct or a cultural feature. It was the very first human relationship and it was created with a deep and powerful purpose—beyond procreation and comfort and companionship.

Marriage was made to show us our deep, deep need and God’s grand and glorious provision…

It’s still a mystery
That heaven fights through hell to help us see
There’s more than you and me
Our love is prophecy
It shows a broken world how it could be
It speaks through you and me

This indescribably precious gift that is my marriage is a vehicle through which God shows me my need for His redeeming and transforming grace, through which He shows me my need to live for someone beyond myself, through which He shows me how much He loves me.

It is my deep desire that everyone that knows us will see these truths in our marriage, that you will hear the song that we were made to sing…

Now more than ever.