I live in a little town on the West coast of Mexico. Today we drove over a neighboring town to see my family and I saw those things that comfort me in some strange way: a woman sitting in a plastic chair with two barefoot kids at her side, pulling up the hair of one of her little girls with a bright pink bow. A man holding a small tree cut down, waiting for his woman carrying a machete from across the street. Cars taking turns at fantastic speeds, barely missing the double parked vehicle on the other side of the street. A young, attractive girl fanning the flame in a grill as she cooks her elote to sell for the evening. A dog barking. Christmas firecrackers exploding. Banda music blaring. The neighbors yelling.
All of this, somehow, builds walls up around me. Walls of familiarity, of understanding, of security. Walls and common ground: family, friends, children, grandparents, new babies, the dead remembered, the candles burning. All of this is life here in our little town. La vida cotidiana. Just the dusty streets, the dirty children, the immaculately clean old women sitting in their doorways with their fans because that is what a good life has led them to. And it is good. It’s good.
But on the other side of the world things are not good. In South Sudan people are not waking up because they haven’t yet slept. They are waiting for the violence to start. Or to stop. They are waiting for the unimaginable, the unexpected, the unpredictable. And I look across the room from my cozy, safe, understood corner of life at my baby sister – I read the worry and the pain in her eyes. And her husband, responsible for lives that he is thousands of miles away from… my heart tears wide open as I look at his face.
Last Sunday we celebrated peace, but what happens when there is no peace? What happens when the peace is so far away that it is unfathomable? And I am thankful that my sister and brother are here, safe in my little town, and not in South Sudan in fear, chaos, death – but is that right? Oh God, I don’t understand and I cling to the words written for such a time as this:
Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise, says the Lord, I will place him in the safety for which he longs. Psalm 12
For the needy will not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor will not always be forgotten. . .
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9
O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! Psalm 83
So tonight I whisper these prayers. I don’t know what else to do and I don’t understand but I hold on to that Truth which I have known – the Light which has known me – I pray and I continue to wait in expectation. Wait and hope that Emmanuel will once more break open the heavens and come down to earth to free the oppressed and the forgotten. O God, do not keep silence…