Charlottesville is where I grew up and went to college and grad school. And it is where I moved this past April. And it is on fire; I do not overstate things when I say that this past weekend, it was as if evil were released and multiplied.
This morning in praying with a friend of mine around gentleness and hard human emotions—anger, lust, fear, loneliness, etc—an image of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane came to me. Jesus took the reality of his own fear and loneliness (and who knows what else) to his Father. There was no pretense. His bloody sweating was his anguished human passion forcing itself out into the light. And there Jesus was met and received in his complete humanity by his Father.
I wonder what it would have been like had he not done that? If he’d showed up in that garden unwilling to offer God the totality of his heart? If he’d avoided that garden all together? What would have happened when Judas showed up and betrayed him with the kiss? Would he have eviscerated Judas on the spot? When Peter cut off the ear of the Roman guard? Would Jesus have upped the stakes, using his power to call down heaven’s wrath on the Roman guards? I don’t know. It is a moot point—he did bring to his Father the center of his very passion, and having met Him, was empowered to move among the Roman oppressors and angry revolutionaries—and all the masses—with supernatural power, wisdom, and purpose.
Making sense of everything that is showing up in Charlottesville, let alone “fixing” it, feels impossible. The Alt Right’s quest for racial supremacy is clearly evil. Anything that seeks to divide (and/or suppress the honor of) the nations (ethné) is in direct contradiction to God’s plan which culminates in Revelation 21 with the nations all bringing their honor to the Lord. Satan, using not just people but systems and institutions, is behind all efforts to distort and divide the ethné. And in response, the fear, anger and resistance of so many flows strong, crying and screaming “No!” to racism. Oh how I have heard and felt this pain in so many of my friends of color. And as those voices are raised, so, too, many other burning issues seem to avalanche into the mix—issues of sexuality, gender, class, and seemingly gaping and bleeding personal wounds—churning and muddying the waters.
Oh Jesus! How did you do it? How did you walk in a culture characterized by growing oppression and revolution, powerfully loving those held captive by sin’s effects—within and without—yet transcending the narrative offered by that same culture? How did you say “No” to powerful and prevailing agendas, manifest in Judas’ kiss and Peter’s sword? How did you find the power and wisdom to go forward in a way nobody would have imagined? How did you know where to set your face and how to walk forward in the sea of angry and accusing voices? And how did you do all of this with love still flowing freely from in your veins? What was the joy that was set before you that made this possible? Just Who is the Father you met in that garden? How did you meet him so deeply?
We must take seriously what has happened (and will most likely flare again in Charlottesville and elsewhere). Where this will all lead is an unknown, but my sense is that it will not go backwards to what seemed a gentler time. So my longing going forward is that we first and foremost can bring the totality of our hearts to our all-powerful, loving heavenly Father, and like Jesus, receive in response the freedom and power to walk wisely, boldly, and lovingly into the storms. It will cost, but may we be set free to walk with our hearts poured out to our good Father in heaven, that we like Jesus might discern and walk with faith, hope, and love towards his certain & eternal purposes in the gritty personal steps we take around blind curves even today,