What is the name for the thing that happens when people ask you to do as they say, not as they do? What is the name of the thing that happens when people have a promise and a duty and they not only fail to fulfill it, they show disdain for their responsibilities? People who cry for peace but then act for war come to mind. All of these factors weigh heavy in the burning of Milwaukee. I’ve been there in recent years, wide boulevards and clear skies, Midwestern charm. Has there been a higher priority on false peace than on interrupting racism?
None of these questions, should they actually have answers can help with the underlying grief of watching the fruit of racism come to maturity. None of these answers can put out a fire or soothe an aching heart. None can calm a parent as they listen for any sound of their child returning from the streets.
Psalm 34:18 gives us this assurance,
“If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, they’ll help you catch your breath.”
In the face of no answers, or of answers that just don’t work for a peaceful future, God waits to help us catch our breath. I begin there as a comforting touchstone, but I long for more.
The scholar Thomas Moore offers that, “[m]ost of the time when I hear the word ‘God,’ it’s very limited. It’s not this infinite, mysterious, unknowable factor[.]” Moore wrote in the book A Religion of One’s Own, “God is in the space between sentences.”
And we bring to this unknowable Space the immensity of our grief, of our concern, and even of the deep love of humanity that at times words may fail to express. It fits there. The work we have yet to do to interrupt racism, to end police brutality, to account for and end anti-blackness in all its insidious forms fits in the space between words and between people. Thus, even though it seems hard to know where to begin again, we can. God will help us catch our breath. The space between words and between people is expansive enough for our sorrows, our dreams, and our futures to fit.
Just now, hold on. Return to the space between you and others in which you allow your griefs to say their own truths and where you can create the new futures that call you forward. It is true that watching a city burn is a deep grief, and knowing that we have not yet accounted for systemic racism, it is hard for us to be comforted, but we will be. We will begin again.