Here we are again, trying to make sense of a world that increasingly just doesn't make sense any more. Our own thoughts are so often drowned out by all the political rhetoric that dominates our televisions, social media, coffeeshop conversations that none of us really know what we think. None of really know what to do.
And the temptation is to add our voice to the noise. Say something. Because quiet never accomplished anything. Right? But all the talking in the world does not solve these problems. All the theories, all the debates, all the ideologies do not get us a single breath closer to a solution to the violence problem in our country, indeed, in our world. And as we all know, anyone who doesn't already agree with us isn't listening anyway.
We're literally talking ourselves in circles...until the stories come back around again and again and again, with different names and different faces but the same terrible outcome.
It's time to stop talking.
It's time to stop pretending that if "the other side" would just "understand" how things "really are," then that would be enough to stop the madness. It's time to stop pretending that we have the power in our own voices to get someone who's not listening to hear us. It's time to stop pretending that the answer to all our problems lies somewhere in politics, that the answer is somewhere on the left or the right, that the solution to this whole mess is somewhere on the debate floor.
It's time to stop pretending that we can convince anyone of anything with our words, when none of our actions line up with the very things we're saying. You can't pound gentleness into someone's heart. You can't bully anyone into forgiveness. You can't demand respect without first giving it. You can't beg someone to see things from your perspective if you're not also willing to open your own eyes.
All we're doing is talking. It's time to stop talking.
It's time to start walking.
It's time to start living out what we're asking of others. We all seem to have the solution to this problem; it seems so simple to us. But if it were so simple, we'd be living it ourselves.
We'd be respecting those that we're asking to respect us. It's that simple. You can't name-call, accuse, assault someone into respecting you; you have to give them a reason to. And the reason you give them is that you respect them. This idea's gotten more than a little backward in our culture. There are a lot of people that think being respected means being affirmed, and that's not true. You can respect someone without agreeing with them. You can respect someone without giving them permission to continue a broken lifestyle. You can respect someone as a human being and still have extreme fundamental differences between the two of you.
Our problem here is that we demand that someone respect us not because we're human, but because we're "right." Clearly, the onus is on the "wrong" to respect the "right," but that's precisely what creates these hard lines between us. You want to do something radical? You want to do your part here? Respect someone you think is wrong. Respect the shooter. Respect the political opponent. Respect the one who makes you feel like it's necessary to speak at all. You don't have to agree with them, but you do have to respect them.
Revolutionary, right? Think of all the lines that we're standing on that could be erased if we would do just this one simple thing.
Because the truth of this world is not that it's us vs. them. Or even us and them at all. There is no such thing. There's only us. There's only us who are trying to do the best we can with this one thing we've got called life. There's only us who are working through the same messes, trying to manage the same troubles, trying to figure out what to do with these wounded hearts. There's only us working our way toward tomorrow one messed-up, troubled, broken, blessed today at a time. There's only us. There has never ever been a them. All that them has ever gotten us is something to fight about, and who has the time when there is so much to fight against?
We're dealing with wounded hearts. Ours, theirs, everybody's. And no wounded heart has ever been mended by words or by politics or by protest. Wounded hearts take tenderness.
There are a thousand things I want to say on a morning like this morning, a thousand valid, logical arguments I want to point out. But they won't be heard. Nobody cares. At least, nobody that doesn't already agree with whatever it is that I might want to say. So I'll save my breath and not speak politics.
But I'll pull my bleeding heart right out of my chest and put it out there on this battle line. I will love hard, on both sides of the issue. I will give my ear, and my hand, to anyone who seeks it, anyone who needs to talk through the woundedness that is eating them alive. I will feed those who are hungry, no matter what side they think they're fighting on. I will clothe those who are naked. I will visit in prison both the protester and the accused. I will call on the sick, taking whatever healing balm I can bring. And I will pray for peace.
And you know what? That's never going to be the headline. That's never going to be breaking news. That's never going to be today's top story - that love won the day. That mercy and grace and justice and peace are real. And that's okay. Because it's not a headline.
It's far, far more than a headline.
And whatever love, mercy, grace, justice, and peace come out of my broken heart and dirty hands...these do not even begin to touch the tragedy in the far corners of this world. Whatever I do today is unlikely to touch Dallas...or Orlando...or Paris...or Brussels...or Fallujah...or Sudan...or wherever. But it's 100% guaranteed to touch my community. It's 100% guaranteed to mean something here. It begins to touch the tragedy closer to home, the brokenness of the human heart that is so longing for these better things....
...the longing to stop feeling like a them and somehow be us.
I'm making us us. I'm creating a space for us. And everyone's welcome.
You want to do something today? You want to know the answer to the world's "problem"? Love somebody. Draw them close and make us us. Give what you're asking to get. Do the things you're asking others to do. Win the day. Because mercy, grace, justice, and peace are real. And they start right here...with dirty hands, with bleeding hearts.
It's time to stop talking.