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Peace in a World of Massacre
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Hiding is an inescapable part of the human condition, and it started early:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:8).
In last Sunday's lectionary reading from the Gospels, we see a similar pattern. The disciples hide in a house behind locked doors, because they are afraid of the authorities who had just murdered their master.
After Monday's horrific massacre in Virginia, most of us will want to go and do likewise. We'll want to hide from God, from others, and from ourselves. The massacre disturbs us not because it's unusual but because it reminds us of the many slaughters inflicted on innocents everyday across the globe. It is a frightening icon of our vulnerability and mortality.
We are right to be afraid. The enlightened, scientific, rational ethos that pervades our culture hypnotizes us into believing that with every biomedical breakthrough and fresh psychological insight we are progressing as a species. That's a lie. Psychologists work mightily to shape relationships and convince us we really are "safe." But we're not safe. It's as simple as that. We're vulnerable. And we know it. And so we hide.
The man and woman hid themselves "among the trees in the garden." That pristine garden. A perfect garden. That spot "among the trees" must have been beautiful.
The disciples hid themselves in a house. They did not escape into the wilderness, but entered a home, a beautiful place of security, family, and love.
Some of us dash to an ugly place to escape our fearsinto drinking or drugs or sexual addictions. Anything to dull the pain, to escape thinking about the things that frightens us. But most of us choose to hide in a beautiful place.
I have a friend who hides in busyness, productivity, and accomplishments. While at work, he rarely lifts his head from his deskhe's in e-mail and phone conversations all day. At home, he's mowing the lawn, sweeping the porch, repainting the bedroom, or doing the dishes. Accomplishments are beautiful things. A resume full of great deeds done is something to be admired. My friend gets a lot of deserved praise for his productivity.
But he admitted to me one day that he bustled about because when he stopped and tried to enjoy his garden in the cool of the day, he started hearing thingsthoughts about his troubled marriage, his wayward kids, and his own mortality. He dashed back into productivity as quickly as possible.
Some hide in organization because they fear chaos. Some hide in spontaneity because they abhor the accountability that organization demands. Some hide in frugalness because they're frightened of poverty. Some hide in vitamins and exercise and a low trans-fat diet because they believe they can forestall their mortality, or at least Alzheimer's.
After this week, we'll want to hide. Some will hide in safety. This is a beautiful thing, something we rightly desire. We use helmets and seatbelts and stand in long lines to throw ourselves in front of metal detectors because we want to be safe. Maybe in the coming months, we'll come up with "more effective means of keeping our schools safe." No inconvenience, no humiliation will seem too great if it means safety at the other end.
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
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- On the Death—and Life—of Innocent Children
- Closer than Ever to the Breath of God
- Making Non-Sense of the Colorado Shootings