LIVING WITH THE DARKNESS
Reflections by Cathy Cermak
It seems the world has become a darker, more scary, more dangerous and unpredictable place than the world of our younger years. It is easy to fall into despair and even a sense of hopelessness. The recent senseless shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and the murder of five Marines in Chatanooga have sent us reeling on the heels of the tragic rampage at an Aurora, Colorado theater and the shooting of eight people in our own back yard. It seems the world’s gone crazy and that fear and hatred have taken over.
So how do we respond as Christians? How do we continue to be light in darkness? How do we even stick around to offer hope to folks in despair when all we want to do is turn and run the other direction in fear? First of all, I think it’s important to recognize that each of us contains both light and darkness, both the divinity of God and the imperfections and vulnerability of humanity inside us. We have the capacities for tremendous, sacrificial love as well as shocking evil and destruction.
We have a natural tendency to slip into the dualistic thinking that Fr. Richard Rohr describes in the accompanying meditation – to label things as good and bad, desirable and not desirable. But this impedes our spiritual growth, keeps us from seeing our own darkness, and divides us from each other. Most importantly, dualistic thinking keeps us from embracing and claiming the forgiveness, mercy and grace that are ours through Jesus Christ and from loving “our neighbors as ourselves.” It is only in embracing our own darkness and weakness that we can accept (and forgive) the “other.”
What touched me more than anything about the Emanuel AME Church shooting was not the pure horror of it, but how genuine the forgiveness and love was that the family members of the victims extended to Dylann Roof. When you genuinely love and trust Jesus Christ, then grappling with conflict, enduring struggles and weathering the storms and tragedies of life can become transforming. Instead of rendering you an embittered, hateful, vengeful victim, you are transformed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. The fruits of this transformation are forgiveness, mercy, love, tenderness, peace and joy. You come out on the other side of tragedy changed and remarkably stronger. Your capacity to love and forgive is greater. I believe the congregational members of Emanuel AME Church could forgive and love the one who murdered their loved ones because they trusted the One who loves and forgives us all.
In the end we must ponder what the thoughts, feelings and actions of Jesus Christ would be in such tragedy. We do not experience anything unique – he experienced it all and more. We must remember that despite all the sorrows, despite all the hate and “evil” in the world, LOVE WINS. From the lyrics of Jason Gray’s “Love Will Have the Final Word:”
Sorrow may close the chapter
But the story will end with laughter
‘Cause the worst thing is never the last thing
No, the last thing will be the best thing.
Of all the things I’ve ever heard
Let me remember when it hurts
That love will have the final word
As long as God is on his throne
I am carried by the hope
That love will have the final word.