Leaning In

Anything can happen when you’re in the air for 15 hours. In this world, you never know what awaits you as the plane lands and you’re back on solid ground. What happens while you’re in the air assaults you on televisions in the airport and social media stories as you power your phone on and see what you missed.

Last month, I landed back in the United States to news of a terrorist attack in Paris. Over the course of the next several days, there was a shift. A shift towards language of anti-immigration and fear of the other. Fear, hate, caution and uncertainty filled the air and came out of the mouths of people worldwide.

The masses cried, “It is not as it should be.”

The Church agrees: it is not as it should be. But, it has not been that for a long time.

The following Monday evening, my roommates and I watched the news from the couch, desperate to learn more about what’s going on. We’re three twenty-somethings who have been able to live with a distance between us and some of the events that have happened globally in the past decade. We follow the big stories and share our opinions, but terrorism and immigration aren’t usually conversation topics at our house. In the midst of an election season and events that have hit close to home, we’ve reach a point where the distance we’ve been privileged feels too far. We want to know more.

But as I’ve leaned into everything around me – immigration debates, fear of “the other”, rise in terrorism, and general uncertainty – I’ve been left with more questions, not the answers I so desperately desire.

And maybe, just maybe that’s what God wants of me right now; not to have established, rehearsed positions, but the courage to begin asking the right questions.

What does compassion demand of me?

What am I afraid of? Who am I afraid of?

Where is my hope? What are the implications of that?

What biases do I have? How do those biases affect my behavior?

What are my motivations? Anger? Fear?

These are the important questions that confirm and challenge convictions. As easy as it would be to ignore the gentle tugs on my heart by the Holy Spirit moving me to go deeper, I’ve learned that when I wrestle with the hard questions the growth comes. Truth moves from my head to my heart and settles itself in there, shaping me. My human instincts want to keep a distance from that which challenges my current worldview and mindset, because I feel secure sometimes on the margins of what’s going on globally.

But when I wander closer, when I dare to ask the hard questions, I’m painfully reminded of the evil within my own heart. And that’s where God wants me to sit — staring right at the cross in awe of its brutality and grace. I was an enemy of God, and yet now, I call myself a daughter of the Most High because of Christ. It is in that posture, humbled at the foot of the cross where I want to lean in further. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not answers and positions on issues that God wants me to craft, but instead a posture He wants to lead me to; a posture that reminds me of my rightful place in this story. It’s not as it should be, but one day, hopefully soon, He will return to make it right. 


May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships – so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people – so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war – so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world – so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen.

-Franciscan Benediction


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