Dawn Tolbert

Writer
Emerge Faith Reflections Writing

Be the light and the love

“I weep for you,” the walrus said.
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and The Carpenter

As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I am struck by the amount of sadness around me. Friends who have lost loved ones. Parents whose babies and children are suffering from disease. Classmates who are in agony over changes at home. The television, playing in the other room, talks about the latest shooting, more war and terror, and hatred and virulence that seem to grow exponentially every day.

I often feel like the walrus, able to do nothing more than weep in the face of such suffering.

This morning in my bible reading, I found myself in Matthew 14, where I was greeted by more suffering. John, the baptizer and the cousin of Jesus, spoke out against a wrong he saw, and it cost him his life. He quite literally lost his head over the whole sordid situation in Herod’s palace.

Verse 12 tells us that “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”

It seems to me that John’s disciples did the right thing. They told Jesus.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading Altar’d by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, which discusses (in part) the conflict between our flesh and the Spirit. “Flesh is a fixer,” Jennifer writes. “It wants to get everything arranged and positioned and manipulated so that it suits flesh.”

The key, she adds, is to cede control of the situation to the power of Jesus.

“When circumstances come into your experience that engage flesh, flesh will try to talk you into rationalizing your reaction. And, indeed, you might have every right to respond as you have, and the precipitating incident might have been wrong, but if you want the radical cleansing life of the present Jesus to flow, your focus has to be on what flesh is there to be engaged. Altar it. Lay it down. Let Him respond. You stay out of it.”

That seems such a difficult concept: to stay out of the fray and let Jesus handle it. Shouldn’t we do something?

So, back to Matthew 14, how exactly did Jesus handle things? “He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (v. 13). Matthew doesn’t give us any more details about what Jesus did, but from what I know about Jesus, I know that he was praying, sharing his hurt and his brokenness with his heavenly father. Then what happens? Suddenly, the scene shifts and the crowds are there, pressing him, wanting him to heal and to teach.

Jesus’ response?

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14). He proceeds to feed 5,000 men—not counting the women and children.

So Jesus withdrew, prayed, and reconnected with God, and then he went right back to work, teaching, healing, feeding, and serving others.

This week, the nation celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So, yes, I believe I should do something in response to suffering. I need to tell Jesus, pray, weep walrus-sized tears if need be, and trust him and his justice. Then, I need to put down my pocket-handkerchief from before my streaming eyes and see those who are hurting, have compassion on them, and begin serving them.

I need to be the light and the love. The world has more than enough darkness and hate already.

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