As I swept up broken glass early Sunday morning after marching in solidarity with life-affirming people on Saturday evening, my heart wept. I never realized how heavy glass was, until I tried to lift my full bucket up to the dumpster to empty it.
Still the heaviness of the glass offered no comparison to the heaviness in my heart, burdened with grief for all affected by the destructive force of racism. I continued to sweep up the shards of glass and considered each fragment as a person shattered by the violence of hatred. These little glistening pieces once were connected as a whole. Now they were smashed. I had to take a few moments to collect myself as my mask caught my tears.
While the window repair guys were taking measurements and boarding up the holes left behind, I held in my heart each black and brown life that was so brutally and violently smashed because of racism. Each life that held beauty and dignity, now gone. No one can measure the impact of that devastation and loss. We will never know all the lives shattered by this evil. But we can, and must, continue to speak their names: George, Breonna, Ahmaud.
When evil shatters life, we must cry out against it.
But first, when evil systemically works to kill and to silence, we must listen to the voices of our oppressed brothers and sisters. We must listen to those who have been crying out against such evil for centuries, who keep crying out to breathe.
Their cries remind us of the truth: every person is God’s child. Every eye is seen by God’s loving gaze and is declared precious.
When George Floyd gasped, “I can’t breathe,” the very breath of God was violated in each and every one of us.
Spirit of God, forgive us for stealing away Your breath.
There are those who have built and will continue to build unjust systems to deny the dignity of some in order to preserve and promote the power of the few. These systems suffocate God’s children.
God’s breath is life-giving and life-affirming. And right now, his oppressed children are reminding us what the breath of God brings: it brings repentance; it brings justice; it brings hope; it brings change.
This Sunday was the Sunday of Pentecost, when we remember the gift of the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God moves in the breath of our Black brothers and sisters.
As we wait and listen for the Spirit, we can receive the invitation to join the cries of our Black brothers and sisters. The Spirit within us refines us and calls us to influence and refine systems and people who abuse their authority and power. It calls for churches to rise up and show God’s love by listening deeply to those who have suffered far too long. It calls for all of us to advocate for change in behavior and policy.
But today, it calls for us to listen and repent: “Spirit of God, forgive us for stealing away Your breath.”