I often struggle to find the balance between timely anxiety, depression and hopelessness, and the liminal ("of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of progress ”) sense that something extraordinary is occurring that I cannot yet begin to know, but whatever it is, I must hold it in my deepest place of faith and intrinsic hope. I write this evening at the cusp of not only the impending Trump presidency but also the nearly epic drama of the confrontation building for next week at Standing Rock between the militarized forces of power and the nonviolent presence of some 10,000 Water Protectors and their allies. I anxiously regret that history has seemingly set a stage for such seemingly inevitable harm on both these fronts, and I struggle to imagine how to prepare myself for potential disasters.
And then, when I feel so discouraged, I read daily about the nonviolence of the Water Protectors’ enormous courage and commitment as they withstand withering hardship of winter and oppression. The commitment to nonviolence is based in love - enough love to compel people to make deep personal sacrifices for the land, for the community, for justice. I find the commitment to nonviolence magnificently inspiring, hopeful, and the highest level of not only individual grace and power, but also the height of the human spirit in solidarity with a sense of a beloved community and the earth. And I see this commitment being lived, incarnated, modeled by the nonviolent presence at Standing Rock. So I hold this propitious kairos moment of decision or action in great reverence with an expectation, despite the threat of violence, of some grace from it all and a prayer for mercy on it all.
I want to close with a blessing related to the post above. My favorite time of the Christian liturgical year is this season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. During this time of limited light and nature’s withdrawal, Advent is marked as a time of waiting; a time of pregnancy; a time for quiet anticipation of the humble birth of Jesus; a time that includes Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) that proclaims a radical structural societal change that favors the poor and the oppressed.
I also associate this month of darkness and waiting with the recognition that many flowering plants like the rhodies and azalea have already set their buds in anticipation of a still distant, potentially dangerous journey to springtime. (Check them out for yourself and take in the wonder of a simple natural rhythm that also provides an example of such assurance and hope.) I consider these plants as annual reminders of the power of hope and assurance built into the very rhythm of the planet.
Whatever the challenges ahead in this particular “winter" of our planetary history, may we be reminded by the Advent story and the rhodies and the azalea that, for whatever reason, the grand order of the universe includes the promise of renewal and release from oppression. It is, indeed, a promise only - no guarantees - but the closer we align ourselves with nonviolent love and the grandeur and assurances of creation, the more we can be a blessing to others, to ourselves, and to Creation itself.