Rev. Kristin Joyner
It is easy to hear people who scream and yell. Anger and frustration are easy to see. The loud and large expressions of unhappy people can take over any room, plaza or community. It is very typical of us, humans, to notice and comment on the negative and violent, but we take no notice, make no comment, when all is smooth and peaceful.
Getting stuck in the sinking feelings, mired in the madness or overwhelmed by the outrage can make us unwell, drained and even spiritually forlorn. As clergy, we can take on the mantle of wanting to – in essence needing to – fix and take away the negativity in the world. How long, O Lord? This is too hard, too big, too angry, too divided. Where is your mercy and comfort? It all feels so hopeless.
Breathe with me. In. Hold. Out. Remember who we are. We are people with hope because of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith knows that there is something more, something different, something that we hope for, and faith assures us that it will emerge. Hope doesn’t end with the hoping because it is rooted in our faith and grows into what we have not yet seen, maybe even what we haven’t even imagined!
I remember sitting on the curb with my sister, outside our little house in the suburbs, waiting for the streetlights to turn on. Our dog, Charcoal, had been hit by a car and my sister and I were understandably bereft. In our elementary school wisdom, we talked about what we should do. We decided we should “expect the worst but hope for the best!” Of course, the “best” for us meant that Charcoal would come home unharmed. We were fortunate. He did come home and lived a long happy life. Our hopes came true! I understand now that that hope wasn’t necessarily rooted in faith. That hope of a young girl was a wish for one particular outcome – the only outcome I could imagine.
On many of our days, our senses can be filled with struggling, suffering and feelings of hopelessness. That is until we practice rooting ourselves, again, in our faith. God is working in us in ways we can’t even imagine. God is working in and through people every day who are quiet and peaceful, smoothing pathways as they go. For me, noticing these voices reinvigorates my faith and my hope.
This isn’t about ignoring or dismissing the suffering, violence and oppression that seeps into every aspect of our lives. These things are there, and they are very real. This is about continuing that work while strengthening our faith and hope, so that we can be a part of transforming the communities around us with a love light that doesn’t go out.
One practice that helps me is to intentionally seek the people who work quietly, pay attention to the peace-filled places in our community, and hear from the deliverers of compassion and the creators of conversation. There are many, many people doing good in our community, bringing peace and loving their neighbors – they just aren’t loud. I find them through conversation in social media, through community-led meetings about food, injustice and building community. These are the voices that we need to raise; these are the people who are shining light, places where I find hope again. When I am reminded that God’s dwelling place is among the people, my soul is restored and I am revived to continue the journey.
You’ve all got stories to share. Feel free to share them here to bring hope to those who feel despair.
Click here to view one from Bothell, WA.
Rev. Kristin Joyner serves as associate pastor of community engagement at Bothell United Methodist Church in Bothell, Washington.