The text arrived in the morning. A girlfriend offering an invite: Join me for a labyrinth walk for winter solstice?
It was tempting. I have not done a labyrinth walk since I visited a monastery for a quiet retreat. But the family had gathered at a nearby resort for our Christmas. But this was a dear long-time family friend, so I asked my daughters: Want to go?
Mothers now themselves, they relished the thought of quiet, a moment of reflection, time together as sisters, as daughters. So we made arrangements to meet up with our family friend on the shortest day of the year.
The community group hosting the solstice had put candles, flowers around the path. People greeted each other with handshakes, hugs, smiles. Sons in baseball caps stood alongside their mothers. Men with dogs on leashes. Women with fairy lights in their hair. Grandmothers wearing down jackets and wool gloves. Friends whispering, laughing.
Revolution, she said. I’ve been thinking a lot about revolution for 2020. Personal and political revolution.
What are you hoping for 2020? my son-in-law asked. He thought I was going to say a new grandbaby. I told him a new president.
And yes, a new grandbaby.
Kindness was my word for 2019. Everyday I walked by the chalkboard on my way to the garage and the saying I had written there urged me to choose kindness.
I was not always kind in 2019. I did not always try to be, if I’m honest. But there were moments when I did show some self-control, when I erased the tweet, when I deleted the rant I wanted to send, when I thought of others before myself, and lots of moments when I prayed for others. And for myself.
I don’t have a word yet for 2020. Do you?
I carried a pine cone in my pocket as I circled the labyrinth sandwiched between my daughters and my friend. Pine cones, pine straw, pine sap. These are the remnants of my Georgia youth. I remember building pine straw houses with friends on the playground at Edgewood Elementary. And years later dumping bags of pine straw behind the monkey grass and between the Camilla bushes at the house on 52nd Avenue. I remember plucking June bug shells out of the pine sap from the trees in my girlfriend’s backyard. I remember how the pines swayed during late afternoon storms in the summer.
During my first trip to Central Oregon in the early 80s, it was the pines that made me feel like this part of Oregon could really be my home away from Georgia.
But it was the children, not the pines, that I thought about as we paced ourselves around the solstice circle, silent other than the rhythmic crunch of earth underneath the heel of humanity.
Children in lines. Headed to breakfast. Headed to showers. Headed from tent to tent. Headed to latrines. Headed to planes carrying them to places and people unknown.
Children in concentration camps made in America.
This land they were told held promise for them.
This land that has held them hostage instead.
Do their grandmomma’s weep for the children they will never see again?
Do their grandaddies curse the president who ordered brown-skin children to be trafficked?
White men in power have been trafficking children of color ever since British boats arrived on the shores of this country. If God were ever going to judge a people for wrongdoing, shouldn’t God have damned white men in power by now?
I try hard not to blame God for the wrongs of zealots but I am finding it more and more difficult.
Walking a labyrinth is supposed to be a time for seeking the light, a prayerful time of recognizing the Sovereign God for Believers like me.
God chooses our rulers, my mother-in-law, a Trump supporter remarked to me this week.
This woman who devoted the early years of her married life bringing the Gospel to brown-skinned children in the jungles of Ecuador now has pledged her unwavering support for a man who doesn’t reflect Christ in any form or fashion. A racist to the core of his brittle-bones. An adulterer. A liar. A traitor to his many wives and his one country.
Our job is to pray for him, she admonished me.
Oh, trust me, I replied. I have prayed more for Trump than any president in my lifetime. And that is true. I have. But I suspect even our prayers challenge God to choose sides.
But here’s the thing: God doesn’t choose sides.
God isn’t an “us” and “them” kind of Creator. Humanity. Period. All of it. Either the love of God is expansive enough to include us all, even the least among us, or it’s an empty shell of what is mistaken for love.
How a person can bring the Gospel to brown-skinned children during one decade of their lives and then in another decade of their lives declare that they want a Wall built to keep brown-skinned children out of the country is completely confounding.
I circle it around in my mind daily, turning that pine cone of a prickly question over and over again. But no matter how many prayers I pray, I return to the very same thought: Children in lines in retention camps in America, marching daily to a despair wrought upon them by a people who declare God is their personal Lord and Savior.
White people believers wholly devoted to a June Bug God.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV (Zondervan).