Grace and peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. Nothing is impossible with God.
When the Lord first spoke to Hosea he said:
Go take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom…”Hosea 1:2-10
When I was growing up, my mom did a pretty good job of getting my brothers and I to church and Sunday school on a fairly regular basis. But, we were certainly nowhere near 100% attendance. And when I was attending confirmation classes at Shepherd of the Valley, I think I did a decent job of paying attention, but to say I was sitting on the edge of my seat, hanging on every word from Pastor Perry and Pastor Hamlin would not really be accurate. So, somewhere along the way, I think I missed this passage.
When the Lord first spoke to Hosea…. When the Lord FIRST spoke to Hosea. I can’t imagine how Hosea felt when the first words he hears from the Lord are, “Go take yourself a wife of whoredom.” Given that it is believed Hosea was fairly affluent, from the correct side of the 8th century BC tracks, this must have been an incredible shock. He must have asked himself, “Did I hear that correctly? Could this be a mistake?” Or even, “This makes no sense, I am simply not going to do this.” But instead, he does exactly what is asked of him. How difficult must it have been to blindly follow!
Have you ever felt like Hosea?
Thinking about Hosea and God’s request of him, I started thinking about others who must have felt similarly. Others who, when God came to them with a direction that did not make sense, went forward. Abraham, Noah, David, to name a few. At some point Noah had to say, “You want me to build WHAT?” And David had to ask, “Has anyone bothered to look at the size of that guy?” And how difficult of a journey must Abraham have taken thinking he was about to sacrifice his son. Yet they all listened and did as God asked.
My mind then transitioned to people today who are called by God to do things that may not make sense, may be difficult, may create internal discomfort…. Where are they? How do they answer the call? Do they answer the call? Do they say, “I don’t understand God… show me the way”? Or do they say, “That does not fit with my current schedule or agenda”?
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Father Michael Lapsley, a man who certainly had reasons to ask, “Why Me?” and “Is this really what you want from me, God?”
Fr. Michael’s Story
For those of you who are not familiar with Fr. Michael, he is an Anglican priest originally from New Zealand and now living in Cape Town, South Africa. In the mid 70’s he became involved in the anti- Apartheid movement and was exiled from South Africa. In April of 1990, three months after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Fr. Michael was at his desk opening a package of religious materials that he had received in the mail when the package exploded, causing him to lose both hands and the sight in one eye. He said, “Quite early on after the bomb I realized that if I was filled with hatred and desire for revenge I’d be a victim forever.”
Instead of being driven by revenge and the need for retribution, he worked even more diligently to end the division that existed in South Africa and to heal the deep wounds that still exist today. At 73 years old, he oversees the Institute for Healing of Memories, which is working to reduce domestic violence in Africa. The Institute helps military veterans around the world deal with the traumas they experienced. It now also works with health care workers and first responders in a post-COVID world. His mission remains to unite where there is division, to heal where there is brokenness. It seems whenever God has called, his only question is, “What else can I do?”
I left that meeting feeling inspired and hopeful. It is such an honor for Spirit in the Desert to be a partner with Healing of Memories and the outstanding work they continue to do.
Rwanda Genocide Memorial
The continued need for unity where there is division, and healing where there is brokenness, soon became clear for me. Ten days after my meeting with Father Michael, I spent the morning at the Rwanda Kigali Genocide Memorial. I have to be honest and say that I knew very little about Rwanda as a country, and even less about the genocide. I did not understand the causes, the magnitude, and the timing of this atrocity.
Pre-genocide Rwanda was a fairly peaceful, united country until outside influences began to divide the country based on random and arbitrary criteria. The primary point of division among the people was how many cows do you own. If you owned ten or more cattle, you were in one group and less than ten you were in another. Within a short amount of time, with the help of a controlled media, division led to distrust, and then hatred. Additional outside influences fanned the flames of hatred, then introduced a stockpile of weapons. This once-harmonious country spiraled into a frenzy.
In April of 1994, over 1 million people were slaughtered in three months. Let me repeat that…over 1 million people were slaughtered in three months. These deaths were not caused by bombs or weapons of mass destruction, but rather by machetes and knives. The majority of these deaths were not caused by military or police, but by neighbor killing neighbor. Former friend killing friend. This happened only 28 years ago.
Nothing is impossible with God
Today, Rwanda is healing and moving forward, united as one Rwanda. I can’t help wonder how many people had the opportunity to stop this, but for whatever reason, chose to do nothing. How many people, when God gave them a direction, chose to go another way. How many people said, “God, that seems really hard.” Or, “God, that does not make sense to me, I think my way will be better.” This tragedy could have been prevented at so many points along the way. It would not have taken thousands of people to stop this. A very few number of people created this, and a few people could have stopped it.
I think these words from Thích Nhất Hạnh, in his book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, summarize this better than I …
Life is so much easier when God calls on me to do things I understand, like, and agree with. How will I respond to the things I don’t understand, the things that make me uncomfortable, the things that others tell me are wrong? Will I be able to – like Hosea – say:
May God give us the gift of discernment and the strength to do his Will, especially when we don’t understand.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert guest speaker, Eric Simonson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.