I’ve been thinking a lot about peace over the past year and a half. It all started with me taking the 3rd in a series of classes at Woodland Hills Church called Becoming Peacemakers. As part of the curriculum, we read The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and to say it rocked my world would be an understatement. The ideas outlined in that book spoke deeply to me and I’m still marinating in them. I want everyone I know to read it. I’m completely serious. If I could buy you all copies, I would.
I live in a neighborhood that is loud, especially in the summer when it’s hot and people are outside (as opposed to in winter, when Minnesota makes hibernating bears of us all). There are lots of kids, and kids make a ton of noise when they are outside and free. We have neighbors that blare their music from cars and backyards. We have neighbors that yell across alleys and streets for their kids to come home, to comment on a neighbor’s comings and goings and just because. The 4th of July is basically a reenactment of the 1812 overture, but instead of cannonballs, we get fireworks. And I don’t mean your typical bottle rockets and sparklers. (Needless to say, Tobycat hates the 4th of July.) My hood is loud. Honestly, I don’t mind. It’s alright with me that I rub shoulders with people who vocalise what they are thinking and feeling. It’s a bit refreshing, actually.
Until the ugly stuff is vocalised. Cause it happens. We are all broken and don’t really know how to be free yet. So, arguments at decibels that could wake the dead at 2:30 in the morning happen on the street. And, you might have guessed already: gunshots.
I can understand the mental shutdown that happens when we are angry. I get that anger blinds us and literally quarantines us to the part of the brain we share with lizards. But it’s still hard to wrap my brain around violence. Especially gun violence that results in death. Because there is a permanence to it that is not present with other kinds of verbal, emotional and physical abuse. How can we become so immune to snuffing out life?
It’s not hard for me to imagine being so angry that I want to silence whomever is offending me. That I have felt. It’s not hard for me to imagine regretting an action taken in anger. That I have felt too. It’s easy to understand fear motivating a police officer to shoot someone they think is grabbing for a gun. I’ve felt that kind of crippling fear. It’s easy to understand prejudice blinding a man into seeing color of skin instead of a human being. I’ve been that blind. It’s easy to rage, to blame, fear and hate.
And I truly think the hardest thing on the planet for us is to love.
In the wake of the shootings this week in Roseville, Minnesota (where I work) and Louisana, and all the other acts of violence that seem to be flooding our country with evidence of hatred, fear and anger, I guess peace is on my mind again. And it’s all tangled up with the word love. I have no idea how to separate the two of them. I don’t think they should be separated.
All I can ask myself is this: if it was me, if I was that police officer holding that gun, looking down into the face of someone I didn’t understand, with my fears and prejudices and anger and hatred, what would I have done? I’m afraid of the answer. But since it was not me, what is my response to be as a person who is trying to be like Jesus, the Prince of Peace?
I’m still figuring that last question out…