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Dear God, Do You Ever Get Discouraged?

04/16/2013 12:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013
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Dear God, do You ever get discouraged? My heart is breaking. I wept when I heard of the bombs in Boston: God, we were just there a week ago! I was grateful that it was a shared grief -- the news and Facebook all joined in grief and prayers. But I grieve that last weekend in Chicago four people were murdered and 19 people were shot -- and the only place I hear of that is from my co-laborers on the South Side of Chicago, with nary a note from most of my white friends in the area.

God, do You ever get discouraged? My heart had been celebrating before the news, but even that joy is tinged with sorrow. I've been holding the gift of Jackie Robinson in my heart on Jackie Robinson Day -- and giving great thanks for the courage and wisdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 50th Anniversary of "Letter from Birmingham Jail." But I grieve for all the hatred that demanded such acts of courage and gifts of love that the Robinsons, Kings and so many others offered to our nation.

God, do You ever get discouraged? While we grieve the carnage in Boston, we fail to equally grieve the carnage that our drones cause in other nations. God, do You ever get discouraged? Dr. King's letter was written in response to a perfectly reasonable letter from eight clergy in Birmingham. God, I listen to my fellow clergy's words and am pleased with their gentle spirit when they write: "We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled." But then I read Dr. King's words:

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail...

God, what if we could see each other the way You do? We so often determine who or what we are by what we're not -- rather than by who or what we are. We see how others' behavior affects us -- but we often fail to see how our actions affect others. God, help us to see the enormity of Dr. King's words:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

God, where are the places that I don't live peace? How do I need to change my behavior to bring more peace? I ponder on Dr. King's words a half century ago, and I am convicted:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

God, so I'm listening. I'm listening to hear a world that has children's laughter and playing and no gunshots or bomb exploding. I'm listening for old people sharing wisdom and stories and know that they're loved. I'm looking for the places where I offer shallow understanding rather than Your passionate and compassionate love. I'm looking for your peace. God, do you get discouraged? I wonder -- and am encouraged by Archbishop Tutu's words:

For we are God's partners. We are the ones God has sent to free the oppressed, to feed the hungry, and to shelter the homeless. We will turn our sadness into resolve, our despair into determination. If you were in heaven now you would notice the tears in God's eyes. The tears streaming down God's face as God looked on us and saw the awful things that we, God's children, are doing to each other. God cries and cries. And then you might see the smile that was breaking over God's face . . . You would see God smiling because God was looking on you and noting how deeply concerned you are. And the smile might break out into a laugh as God said, "You have vindicated Me. I had been asking Myself, 'Whatever got Me to create that lot?' And when I see you, yes, you," God says, "you are beginning to wipe the tears from My eyes because you care. Because you care and you have come to learn that you are not your brother's or sister's keeper. You are your brother's brother and your sister's sister." And God says, "I have no one except you. Thank you for vindicating Me." (From "God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time")