I have heard this story so many times: this narrative of people waking up to injustice or abuse in institutions, then trying so hard to help the institution wake up, then discovering that there’s no forcing change and that trying so hard is burning their hearts down, then waking up to the reality that leaving is the only heartbreaking option. I don’t know if it’s actually getting more common, or if I’m just paying better attention to it, having lived it a time or two.
I have heard this story in marriages. In churches. In businesses. In nations and governments. Over and over again. It’s a dark, painful story that calls to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:14 (and Luke 9:5) to “leave...and shake the dust off your feet when you leave…”*
I don’t think Jesus says that glibly. He knows that leaving is a painful decision; he also knows that trying to force anyone to listen or change is a futile effort, and graciously give his disciples permission to move onto different, more open and receptive spaces. And that’s another thing I see happening. I see new spaces being created. I see a new reformation happening. I see new ways emerging. I see hope and freedom sprouting up. I see a winnowing.
But waking up is still hard. There’s hope and life in it, but also discomfort, grief, and sometimes confusion. It takes great faith to throw our precious grain up in the air, and trust that what falls back down, after the wind has carried the chaff away, will be enough.**
God, you are the one who wakes us up
When we are ready.
You wake us up to injustice.
You wake us up to love.
You wake us up to injury.
You wake us up to hope.
Sometimes we wake up and realize
That our institutions need change;
That our theology needs change;
That our habits need change;
That our politics need change;
That our hearts need change.
Sometimes we must suffer the scathing heartache
Of leaving behind ideas or institutions
That don’t work anymore, now that we’re awake.
Sometimes our waking requires parting.
Sometimes we can’t support.
Sometimes we are no longer supported.
It can feel like homelessness,
Like giving up.
We wish it weren’t so.
We can only allow ourselves to change at your prompting;
We can’t force others to understand.
Let those of us who are waking, painstakingly and in various ways,
Have no judgement toward those who aren’t yet ready to arise.
Let no arrogance exist among us,
But only patience and compassion.
Let those of us who can stay and enact change,
Be strengthened and encouraged.
Let those of us who must leave,
Leave wisely and lovingly.