Return From Neverland
Aug 17, 2017
Like Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, I realize I cannot remain forever on my personal Neverland island of Nantucket. For two months I didn’t turn on television. I paid scant attention to the headlines of the newspapers for sale in the pharmacy. America seemed very remote. With decidedly mixed feelings, I packed my bags and returned home to the real world last week.
Those first couple of days back in Texas, I was too busy dealing with dirty clothes and mail to pay much attention to the news. Then on Friday night, a young Methodist student minister I know posted on Facebook:
The UVA Lawn was my home in 2000 and white supremacists took it over tonight with torches. #Charlottesville
Huh? I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I checked the news on my iPad and quickly found out. I was both mesmerized and horrified by the photos and videos I saw. I felt like I was watching a replay of the first 30+ years of my life: World War II. Hitler and Nazi marches. Stalin and his tanks. White robes and hoods, torches, lynchings. Then, close to home, the integration of Little Rock Central High School. Ole Miss. Sit-in’s. Churches burned. Martin Luther King, Selma, Birmingham. Assassinations. Watts/Los Angeles. Chicago. Kent State. Vietnam. Now this. This is not politics. This is not partisan. This is evil. This is wrong.
Business As Usual
I don’t want this for my grandchildren or for great-grandchildren yet unborn. I thought we were doing better as a nation. I was wrong, but I took comfort in the calls from church leaders to take a stand, to name it, to oppose it. I reposted their essays, prayers, litanies and sermon outlines. Silence is consent. And I was heartsick when my church was silent on Sunday morning. It was business as usual.
Meanwhile, I proceeded with my plans for this week’s blog. I was going to write about the unique grief of wives who are caregivers for their disabled and dying husbands. But the words didn’t come. I was still distracted by the horrors of Charlottesville. I created a meme to post on my personal Facebook page—another effort to protest the silence. And then I remembered a sermon I heard many years ago.
Kenneth Chafin was a famous preacher, who served as pastor of South Main Baptist Church, Houston, from 1972 to 1984. One weekend we took our children to visit AstroWorld, and I decided to slip away on Sunday morning to hear Chafin preach. His text was the familiar story of the Transfiguration—probably the account in Luke 9:28–42. But Chafin gave it a unique twist, expanding the Scripture reference to include what happened when Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, saw the multitudes and cast out demons.
…we aren’t meant to stay on the mountaintop. Instead, we need the mountaintop experiences to equip and sustain us when we are in the crowds. There is a time for solitude and retreat. There is also a time to plunge into the noise and chaos.
You may remember that Peter wanted to stay on the mountaintop and erect tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah; but Jesus ignored his suggestion and led the disciples back to the crowds. Chafin said we aren’t meant to stay on the mountaintop. Instead, we need the mountaintop experiences to equip and sustain us when we are in the crowds. There is a time for solitude and retreat. There is also a time to plunge into the noise and chaos.
I realized that I too was going about business as usual, as if the earth had not shifted beneath me over the weekend. Father, forgive me.
I put away my notes on caregivers. My meme—the one at the top of this essay—belongs here, not on my Facebook page. Author-bloggers are advised not to write anything political or controversial and to always stay on their subject—in my case, grief and widowhood in all the ways they play out in my life. I’m breaking the rules this week, but I am also grieving. This is who I am, and this is where I stand.
Photos in the meme are of Adolf Hitler on parade during World War II and from the wall of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.