Reality is heavy. Last weekend we saw images of hundreds of white supremacists gathered for a rally in Virginia. We heard the horrifying news that one of them drove a car into a crowd of people killing one and injuring 19. A few days before that, we witnessed two world leaders threatening one another's people with nuclear warfare. We saw government leaders in Guam creating preparedness documents to equip residents in case of a missile strike. We imagined what life is like right now for children in Virginia, North Korea, South Korea and Guam.
It doesn't seem real. How can this be? What are the roots of violence and how can we get rid of them? How can we free ourselves and our neighbors from the toxic grip of fear?
I am drawn to the words Jesus once said to an exhausted crowd: "Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). I imagine the whole world sitting in a giant circle holding hands and laying down for a nap. I wish all 7.5 billion of us could enjoy a collective snooze. We could set our alarms and then wake up at the same time. It would be a global reset. We'd awaken refreshed and aware.
I long for a day without slander and defensiveness. For a country less divided. For a world where everyone gets to go to school and drink clean water. For a population eager to embrace humility and forgiveness. For people ready to admit mistakes and acknowledge privilege and inequity.
Jesus understood exhaustion. He lived in a chaotic time, too. He often wandered off to hillsides to pray. He regularly gathered his friends with him to eat. He probably worked in his woodshed when he wasn't on the road. When he was weary, he sought rest.
We are weary, and we need rest, too. The resting part matters. Turning off the news now and then matters. Meditating and praying and sleeping helps. If you're fatigued and exhausted of all this hurt and you're infuriated by those stoking the fires, then take a nap from all of it for awhile. Power down your phone. Turn off your cable and Internet. Get the television out of your bedroom. Turn on classical music. Go to the library. Teach your dog a new trick. Rest.
Resting is what restores us to reenter the world ready to serve. We need you. So rest up.
But know that Jesus didn't call his followers to retreat entirely and permanently from the world's wounds. Instead, he encouraged them to acknowledge hurt and sickness. He didn't say, "Oh, injustice is too painful for you? Okay, no problem, go back to your iPhone." He said, "With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can handle this."
Like Mordecai said to Esther when it was time to stand up to oppression, "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this" (the Old Testament book Esther tells the full story).
We're not royalty, but we do have power. We do have a sphere of influence. Our voices matter. And now is a really important time. Peace is not partisan. Compassion is not partisan.
Jesus perpetually invites his followers to get out and do something about injustice, pain and suffering. He once told the story of a man who risked his safety and his health to help a person who was hurting (Luke 10:25-27). Even when no one else was willing to show mercy, this man was. Jesus advised his listeners, "Go and do likewise."
His timeless guidance remains. Go and do likewise. We rest and recharge. And we serve. It's a cycle.There is no beginning and no ending. This is the life to which we are called. A life of resting in the compassion of our Creator and serving with the compassion of our Creator.
In 1955, Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller collaborated on the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." The stanzas make a fitting daily prayer for all of us.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.