Scripture reading for today:
Shine Down on Us…
In the early morning hours post-election of the now famed, Donald Trump, I held my then 8-month-old in distress. What kind of world had I brought a child into? What kind of world would he encounter if a womanizer with bigoted and xenophobic tendencies was able to rise to the surface as an ideal leader? And if this was the model for governmental leadership, what did this mean for my child’s future? The echoes of American politics are always heard and felt by their Northern neighbours and in 2016 the reverberations I was hearing were disheartening. It didn’t take long for the world to recognize that this landmark election was a symptom of something larger, something complex yet simply put: the fear of equality.
Before you denounce my words or roll your eyes in an upward cringe, please know I have learned to live in a world where my lack of equality has always been for the good of the powerful. Ensuring people of colour, women, immigrants and other marginalized groups are stifled keeps the power structures of our days working like clockwork. For decades marginalized groups have been chipping away at the unfair echelons of power attempting to raise those without bootstraps by any means possible. The 2016 American election was a sharp reaction to years of action focused on civil rights, women’s rights, sexual rights, marriage rights, and well… human rights. On this particular morning, as I held my son, I felt as though the world was falling to pieces, that the future of this young black prince was being suffocated before it had fully begun.
That was three years ago and since then we have heard the stories of a generation of women whose traumas were belittled by the length of their skirts, tone of their speech and contents of their glasses. We have witnessed the repeated accounts of violent shootings in public spaces, both here in Canada and abroad. We have watched as people of colour, regardless of the nation they call home, find themselves increasingly afraid of the police designed to protect them. We hear news stories of shootings at mosques as false tropes of hate become all too common. The news announcing the rise of refugees while simultaneously announcing the growing distaste for accepting refugees in our own backyard. All around, for three years, I have seen the rise of white supremacist and nationalistic views among friends and neighbours. Racism has become an overused noun that many espouse to, but few acknowledge. Feminism is considered a curse word and xenophobia is now viewed as protecting “Canadian values.” It has been a storm of oppression. A wave of microaggressions. A descent into the freedom to voice the cruellest of thoughts. The church has done little to quell the darkness, the church that I love has rather at times been the loudest voice of darkness. Yet, in the midst of it all, the marginalized refuse to lie down, they refuse to believe that to be defeated is their calling, that oppression is where they must lay their head.
In three years, I have seen the dark side of humanity, but I have also seen a glimmer of light, tinges of hope and whispers of progress.
In three years, I have witnessed the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movement rise to give women a voice and a platform to share their stories. In three years, I have witnessed people of colour cultivate safe spaces where their stories are heard and validated. In three years, I have witnessed churches, small groups and entire cities decide that refugees are their responsibility — regardless of government interventions. In three years, I have watched organizations insist on diversity, even when it’s hard. In three years, I have heard the protests of the powerful and those seeking empowerment speaking with a single voice in the pursuit of equality. In three years, I have seen women rise to pulpits, not caring about who chooses to welcome them or dismiss them. In three years, I have heard the cries, the prayers and the protests for justice get louder as fear loses its ground. In three years, I have been reminded that there is nothing new under the sun, and yet every day something new emerges. In three years, there have been signs of light despite the darkness.
As we sit amid Advent, and I reflect on the shadows of the past three years, I am reminded that when things fall apart it is easy to turn our attention to that which is crumbling and disappointing. When things fall apart it’s easy to be defeated by that which wants to defeat us. When things fall apart it’s easy to be overwhelmed by that which wants to oppress us. When things fall apart it’s easy to want to fall to pieces. Yet, here we are in the season of Advent where we are invited to wait with our eyes attuned for the glimmers of light and the reflections of hope…that is the perfect description of the past three years…
Psalm 80 outlines the rise and fall of a nation struggling to know that the God who was present; IS present. Verse 15 declares “Take care of this grapevine that you yourself have planted, this son you have raised for yourself.” And ends with v.19 “Make your face shine down on us. Only then will we be saved.” Three years later, these are the types of prayers that echo what is deep within my heart. That when it is dark, I would be reminded that God cares for that which he has planted. That when it is cold, I would be reminded that God cares for that which he has planted regardless of the season. That when it is difficult, I would be reminded that God cares for that which he has planted no matter the circumstance. And so three years later, I am still handing over the burden of oppression, the weight of the marginalized, the sorrow of the isolated and choosing, more often than not, to believe that God is able to take care of this grapevine – that is – God is able to take care of me. God is able to take care of the oppressed. God is present in the angst of the marginalized. God sits in the midst of the isolated. And it is with this wavering assurance I cry out, “Make your face shine down on us. Only then will we be saved.” (Ps 80:19). In three years my prayers are shifting from anger and indignation to hope and patience.
As we find ourselves settled into the season of Advent, I am reminded that this is the time for waiting even when it’s all falling apart. That this is the season for waiting with hope even when it seems it is dark. That this is the season for waiting with eyes wide open as we bear witness to the sparks of light shining down on us, slowly, daily, sometimes seemingly inconsequentially saving us. Saving us from the fear of inequality. Saving us from the fear of one another. Saving us from the fear of that which we cannot control. Saving us to the glory of God. As 2019 approaches it’s close and the news cycles swing from the left to the right, as the noise rises and falls, I am waiting and I am praying, take care of that which you have planted… shine your light for only then can we be saved.
Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.